To help you determine when to choose palliative care, we first need to understand what palliative care is and isn't. Palliative care is an extra layer of support focused on relieving the symptoms and stress of a serious illness. The goal is to improve quality of life. This makes it different from Hospice care, which is end-of-life care.
Who provides palliative care and when are you eligible?
Palliative care is provided by a specially-trained team of doctors, nurses and other specialists who work together with your other doctors to provide an extra layer of support. It is appropriate at any age and at any stage in an illness, and it can be provided along with curative and life-prolonging treatment.
Palliative care will be helpful if you or a loved one are living with a serious illness like cancer, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, congestive heart failure (CHF), chronic lung disease (COPD, pulmonary fibrosis, etc), liver failure or kidney failure.
What are the benefits of palliative care?
When you live with a serious illness, your symptoms may make it difficult to do the things you enjoy which greatly impacts your quality of life. With palliative care, you can expect relief from symptoms like the following:
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty sleeping
Palliative care helps you carry on with your daily life and improves your ability to handle medical treatments.
Palliative care services provide an extra layer of support and guidance as you navigate difficult medical decisions related to your serious illness. Talking about what to expect and understanding the benefits and burdens of treatment options can help you make decisions that are in alignment with your own goals and values. Your palliative care team will also help you complete a Health Care Directive so you can document your health care preferences.
Is the patient the only beneficiary of palliative care?
The stress of a serious illness can have an impact on you and your loved ones. Palliative care providers offer emotional and spiritual support to help you and your loved ones talk about your illness and what is important to you. Your palliative care team will develop a plan of care for the whole person and family-mind, body and spirit.
How do you find out about and begin receiving palliative care?
If you need palliative care you just have to ask for it. Tell your doctors and nurses that you would like to see the palliative care team. You can receive palliative care any time during your illness both in the hospital setting and outpatient clinics. Most insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid, cover the service. For more information visit www.getpalliativecare.org.