Sometimes called “comfort care,” the goal of palliative medicine is to improve the quality of life for those suffering from life-threatening or serious chronic health issues. Typically managed separately from primary treatment, palliative care focuses on pain relief, symptom reduction, and general physical and spiritual comfort. Below are answers to some common questions about palliative care:
Essentially, hospice care is a sub-category of palliative medicine. Hospice care is designed for those in the end stages of terminal illness, while palliative care is for anyone who needs help managing a major health crisis. Choosing to receive palliative care does not mean that you have chosen to stop curative treatment.
Palliative care helps patients manage stress, anxiety, and depression, as well as physical symptoms such as pain, shortness of breath, nausea, immobility, insomnia, and chronic fatigue. Once patients feel comfortable and functional, caregiver stress-levels also tend to drop.
Palliative care is often part of treatment for those suffering from diseases such as cancer, congestive heart failure, kidney failure, stroke, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, and many other similar conditions.
In addition to the patient and his or her loved ones, palliative care teams typically consist of the patient’s primary doctor, a palliative doctor, nurses, and other professionals such as chaplains, social workers, psychologists, physical therapists, and dieticians on an as-needed basis.
Most hospitals and long-term care facilities have palliative care teams on staff. Many outpatient clinics and home health services can also provide palliative care.
You can make arrangements for palliative care as soon as you receive a diagnosis that may warrant it. You don’t have to wait for your symptoms to progress to a point of crisis.
The first step toward making palliative care plans is to talk to your primary care doctor, or to the doctor who’s currently supervising your treatment. He or she can help you quickly find the resources you need.
Update: January 2018