What is Palliative Care?
Palliative Care focuses on relieving and preventing the suffering of patients. Palliative care specializes in the relief of the pain, symptoms and stress of serious illness.
Palliative care is given to improve the quality of life of patients who have a serious or life-threatening disease, such as cancer. The goal of palliative care is to prevent or treat, as early as possible, the symptoms and side effects of the disease and its treatment, in addition to the related psychological, social, and spiritual problems. The goal is not to cure. Palliative care is also called comfort care, supportive care, and symptom management.
Palliative medicine is appropriate for patients in all disease stages, including those undergoing treatment for curable illnesses and those living with chronic diseases, as well as patients nearing the end of life.
This can include treating nausea related to chemotherapy, morphine to treat the pain of broken leg, or ibuprofen to treat aching related to an influenza
Palliative medicine at Holzer utilizes a multidisciplinary approach to patient care, relying on input throughout our healthcare system, including physicians, pharmacists, nurses, chaplains, social workers, and Hospice to create a plan of care to relieve suffering in all areas of life. This multidisciplinary approach allows the palliative care team to address physical, emotional, spiritual and social concerns that arise with advanced illness.
Your Palliative Care Team
The Palliative Care Team plans to provide both effective inpatient and outpatient management of patients with serious, potentially life threatening illness independent of curative or life-prolonging care. The primary focus is placed on pain and symptom control, psychosocial distress, spiritual issues and practical needs. Additionally, our desire is to be very informative so that patients and their families can fully understand the illness, prognosis and treatment options and then work from that knowledge in establishing goals of care. Knowledge, understanding and compassion are key foundational concepts for the success of Palliative Care.
Common Indications for Palliative Care
Some of the more common indications for palliative care consultation include:
- Intractable symptom (pain, nausea, depression, etc.) management associated with end stage or serious illness,
- Discussing goals of treatment/care and prognosis, and assistance with coordination of care,
- Patients who have frequent readmissions to the acute care setting can often benefit from palliative care consultation especially when a progressing illness such as COPD, CHF or advanced renal disease are the culprit. Complex family system dynamics often create situations in which palliative care can be beneficial as well.
How do I know if Palliative Care is right for me?
Palliative care may be right for you if you suffer from pain or other symptoms due to a serious illness. Serious illnesses include but are not limited to:
- Cardiac disease
- Respiratory disease
- Kidney failure
- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
- Multiple Sclerosis
Palliative care can be utilized at any stage of illness and alongside curative treatment.
What can I expect from Palliative Care?
When you receive palliative care you can expect relief from distressing symptoms such as pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, constipation, nausea, loss of appetite and difficulty sleeping. Palliative care improves your ability to carry on with your daily life. It improves your ability to tolerate medical treatments and helps you to better understand your condition and your choices for medical care. In short, you can expect the best possible quality of life.
Palliative Care & Cancer
Palliative care is given throughout a patient’s experience with cancer. It should begin at diagnosis and continue through treatment, follow-up care, and the end of life.
Palliative care is provided in addition to cancer treatment. However, when a patient reaches a point at which treatment to destroy the cancer is no longer warranted, palliative care becomes the total focus of care.
Palliative care will be continued to alleviate the symptoms and emotional issues of cancer. Palliative care providers can help ease the transition to end-of-life care.
It’s common for family members to become overwhelmed by the extra responsibilities placed upon them. Palliative care can help families and friends cope with these issues and provide the support needed.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does my insurance pay for palliative care?
Most insurance plans cover all or a portion of the palliative care you receive in the hospital, similar to other hospital and medical services. This is also true of Medicare and Medicaid. Drugs, medical supplies and equipment may also be covered. If you have financial concerns, a social worker or financial consultant from Holzer can assist you.
How do I or my loved one receive palliative care?
Patients can request a palliative care referral from his or her primary care physician or nurse. Patients can make their wishes for palliative care known to family, friends and caregivers.