If you have a loved one who has been diagnosed with a serious illness, chances are that you may look into palliative care as an option for helping them. This specialized approach to healthcare focuses on improving the quality of life for individuals with serious or life-limiting illnesses. Because of this, it is oftentimes confused with hospice care which we will cover in a future blog. Palliative care aims to relieve pain, symptoms, and the emotional and psychological distress accompanying these conditions. This type of care is holistic in nature, addressing the physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs of patients and their families.
Key Points About Palliative Care
Palliative care aims to enhance the overall well-being of patients facing serious illnesses, regardless of the prognosis. It focuses on managing symptoms, alleviating pain, and promoting comfort. The goal is to help patients maintain the highest possible quality of life throughout their illness journey.
Care such as this can consist of a team of healthcare professionals, including doctors, nurses, social workers, psychologists, chaplains, and other specialists. This interdisciplinary team collaborates to address the diverse needs of patients and their families.
Palliative care focuses on managing physical symptoms such as pain, nausea, shortness of breath, fatigue, and loss of appetite. The team employs various interventions, including medication, physical therapy, relaxation techniques, and complementary therapies, to improve symptom control and enhance comfort.
Emotional and Psychological Support
Palliative care recognizes serious illness’s emotional and psychological impact on patients and their families. The team provides counseling, emotional support, and assistance in coping with anxiety, depression, grief, and existential concerns.
Communication and Shared Decision-Making
Palliative care emphasizes open and honest communication between healthcare providers, patients, and their families. The team facilitates discussions about treatment options, goals of care, and advance care planning to ensure patients’ wishes and values are respected.
Continuity of Care
Palliative care can be provided alongside curative or life-prolonging treatments. It supports patients through different stages of their illness, including transitions from hospital to home or from active treatment to end-of-life care. Palliative care teams work closely with other healthcare providers and in-home care teams to ensure seamless and coordinated care.
Support for Families
This type of care extends support to the families and caregivers of patients. It helps them cope with their emotional, practical, and spiritual challenges while caring for their loved ones. Bereavement support is also provided to families after the patient’s death.
Availability and Settings
Care can be provided in various settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, hospices, and patients’ homes. It can be integrated at any stage of an illness, from the time of diagnosis to the end of life.
Palliative care aims to optimize the quality of life for patients and their families, providing physical and emotional comfort, support, and dignity throughout the journey of serious illness. It is not limited to end-of-life care but can be implemented alongside other treatments to provide comprehensive support and holistic care.