Palliative Care: What is it and When is it a Good Option?
Being an educated consumer of healthcare is not only beneficial, it’s becoming more and more critical to living a happy and healthy life. Knowing what services are available and knowing when it is time to consider those services is the first step in taking your healthcare into your own hands.
Palliative careis a fairly new specialty that many patients or consumers of healthcare may not realize is an option. However, it is a viable option to be considered if you have been diagnosed with a serious, long-lasting condition or a life-threatening illness. Palliative care can be performed in conjunction with the medical care you are receiving from your primary care physician, specialists or even your family doctor.
The benefits of palliative care are endless. Here’s what you need to know:
- The focus: The focusof palliative care is primarily to reduce or manage pain, to treat symptoms regardless if they are minor or debilitating and to provide emotional support, which is greatly needed when you are dealing with these types of issues.
- The goal: Palliative care’s goal is to promote self-determination. This is basically a term that means you, as the patient, dictate your own focus and goals of your medical care.
- What it does: Palliative care allows you to pursue aggressive, curative treatment at the same time you are receiving palliative care. This is different than hospice care, in which the focus is to usually to forgo curative treatment, seek comfort care and allow the end of life to occur. Although different from hospice care, palliative care is sometimes used as bridge or stepping stone. It is not unusual to seek palliative care during an experimental course of treatment or even when electing to receive one more round of chemotherapy, radiation or surgical intervention as a hope for a cure. If the illness is not cured or if all attempts to treat the illness has been exhausted, the transition from palliative care to hospice can be seamless and much less stressful.
Palliative care is an option for a wide variety of illnesses or diseases. Patients may be dealing with cancer, HIV or AIDS, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, liver disease, Alzheimer’s dementia, Systemic Lupus, MS and heart disease to name a few. As common with these types of illnesses, the symptoms associated can be debilitating.
Palliative care can help.
As stated, pain is a commonly treated symptom in palliative care. However, other symptoms that can be treated include shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting, debilitating fatigue, constipation, diarrhea and even difficulty sleeping. However, you don’t have to be admitted to the hospital to qualify for palliative care. You can receive palliative care in your home, nursing home or assisted living facilities. Wherever you reside, the palliative care team can come to you.
Knowing when to start palliative care is paramount in ensuring a successful treatment plan. An individual can start palliative care at any time during their illness. In fact, even at the time of the initial diagnosis, or anytime during the course of treatment, palliative care can be initiated. Unlike hospice, you don’t have to wait until you have been given a terminal prognosis to begin palliative care. In fact, the sooner you begin palliative care, the better your chances of minimizing symptoms and ensuring your needs are met.
If you are interested in receiving more information on palliative care or would like to obtain palliative care services, you can contact Crossroads Hospice directly at 888-564-3405 or speak with your doctor. He or she can refer you to palliative care.
Senior Vice President of Clinical Operations
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