What Is Palliative Care?

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Palliative care is a type of medical assistance focusing on helping patients and their families relieve the stress and symptoms of an illness. People with serious illnesses, who need assistance to improve their quality of life should look into palliative care. Unlike hospice care, which offers help for the terminally ill, palliative care provides comfort to people of all ages who have life-threatening, chronic, or serious illnesses.

Palliative Care vs. Hospice Care

While palliative care medically treats a patient’s symptoms of a serious illness, hospice care focuses on relieving those symptoms and supporting a patient who has only months to live, as well as his family. However, unlike hospice, expert end-of-life care is not always available in palliative care.

You can start receiving palliative care as soon as you are diagnosed with an illness thereby also allowing curative treatments to be provided at the same time. Hospice care typically begins after all other medical treatments have subsided, and it is clear the patient is not going to survive the illness.

Finally, Medicare, and in most states Medicaid, will pay for all hospice services, but when it comes to palliative care, only some treatments and medications are covered. The same goes with private pay insurance. While hospice is taken care of, there really isn’t a specific palliative care package available. It depends on the services needed and the type of care that is available.

How Palliative Care Helps Patients and Families

Palliative care is a relatively new type of treatment given to seriously ill people, but it is becoming a more common form of care in hospitals, nursing homes, and home health agencies. This type of assistance is aimed at helping patients and their families understand all possible treatment options.

This type of care also helps you gain the strength needed to handle day-to-day living activities as well as tolerate curative treatments. Patients and their families express their goals for the illness, and the palliative care team will provide the support and guidance.

Palliative Care Team

Your palliative care team can help you with a range of issues including pain, depression, difficulty sleeping, anxiety, and more. The make up of this team depends on the patient and family’s needs. It typically include:

  • Physicians
  • Registered Nurses
  • Advanced Practice Nurses
  • Social Workers
  • Pharmacists
  • Chaplains
  • Dietitians

Diseases Commonly Treated by Palliative Care

The focus of palliative care is to improve a patient’s quality of life when he is seriously ill. The care team also helps your family and caregivers provide practical support when a patient is facing serious illnesses including:

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
  • Alzheimer’s Disease/Dementia
  • Cancer
  • Bone Marrow Transplant
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • AIDS/HIV
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Sickle Cell Anemia
  • Stroke

Pediatric Palliative Care

Specialized palliative care is available when a child becomes seriously ill because care team members recognize that besides parents and siblings, there is also an extended group of people who will need support. This includes the child’s friends, teachers, and classmates.  Some of these individuals will benefit from family or individual counseling, while siblings, friends, and classmates can receive support through pediatric therapies such as special art or music programs.

Talking to Your Child

If you have a child who has a serious illness, talking to him about his situation can be challenging. Your pediatric palliative care team can provide support, connections, and guidance to you and your child. They can also provide additional support for those involved in your child’s life such as the school community.

Parents also have difficulty making the right decisions when it comes to their child’s palliative care. These include whether to send him to school during curative treatments or if which medical treatment is more suitable. These decisions can overwhelm and even confuse parents

Things to Remember

It can be difficult to consider palliative care for a seriously ill patient. This option is considered when help and support is needed to go through curative treatments. Make sure you or your loved one discusses all options with a physician before making any permanent care plans. For additional information on palliative care planning, contact Grace.

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