Dealing with the symptoms of any painful or serious illness can be a difficult walk; however, special care is available to make you more comfortable. Palliative care may be given at the same time you are receiving treatment for your illness. It is a central part of treatment for serious or life-threatening illnesses.
What is Palliative Care?
Palliative care is comprehensive treatment for the symptoms, discomfort and stress related to serious illness. The goal is to prevent and ease suffering and improve your quality of life. It does not replace your primary treatment; palliative care works together with the primary treatment.
Palliative care is different from hospice in that there are no restrictions on eligibility regarding life expectancy or continuation of aggressive medical treatment. The team strives to improve communication between patients/families and health care providers and to improve patient/family/physician support.
Palliative Care Team
The palliative care team members – consisting of a physician, certified nurse practitioner, nurses, social workers, dietitians and chaplains – work alongside your primary care physician and specialists. They spend as much time with you and your family, as needed, to help you understand your medical condition, care options, end-of-life care wishes and other needs. In most cases, palliative care is offered in the hospital setting. The process begins when your physician makes a referral to the palliative care team or you ask your doctor for a referral. Your first contact with the palliative care team will be with either a physician or a nurse.
The team’s first goal is to obtain a thorough understanding of your specific medical condition and your specific needs. Many people living with serious illnesses experience physical symptoms and emotional distress related to their disease. In coordination with you, your loved ones, and physician, a plan of care will be established.
What Happens When You Leave the Hospital?
Palliative care strives to support you and your wishes throughout the duration of your illness. In order to do that, the palliative care team may assist you to establish your wishes in legally acceptable ways, such as a Living Will or Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare. Such documents provide for peace of mind and prevent you or your loved ones from having to make difficult decisions in the midst of a medical crisis.
The palliative care team works with your physician to help you make a successful transition to your home, hospice or other healthcare setting. Depending upon your established plan of care, the palliative care team may continue to work with your physician and caregivers to provide complete treatment for your symptoms in the present and anticipated needs of the future.