What is Palliative Care and What is it Not?
Not too long ago, patients viewed their treatment options for the pain, symptoms, and side-effects of chronic illness with little hope. But that’s simply no longer the case.
Many patients with chronic conditions are now turning to palliative care, a newer form of care that is focused on symptom management, to help them stay out of the hospital and improve their overall quality of life.
“We’re here to support them, maximize their quality of life, and ensure they are actually living and not just being alive,” says Lindsay Noble, Clinical Director at Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care.
Even though palliative care has become more well known to patients and care providers, there are still many common misconceptions around what it is and what it is not.
So, what is palliative care?
Palliative care is a type of care focused on the quality of a patient’s life. It is available to patients at any stage of a serious or chronic illness – such as cancer, heart disease, or respiratory disease. Palliative care provides treatment that manages the pain, symptoms, and side effects of their illness. It helps them and their loved ones stay out of the hospital by managing their symptoms wherever they call home.
While receiving this type of care, a team of doctors, nurses, and social workers help patients and their loved ones better understand their illness and diagnosis so they can continue living their life – on their own terms.
Is palliative care hospice care?
This is one of our most-received questions about palliative care. No, palliative care is not hospice care. But, hospice care includes palliative care within it.
“The nature of the care is the same,” explains Lindsay. “But the manner in which we give it is different.”
A key difference is that patients on palliative care can continue to pursue curative treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation while concurrently receiving palliative care to maximize their quality of life.
Patients on hospice care receive the same pain and symptom management that palliative care offers to maximize quality of life. However, hospice care is offered to patients with a terminal diagnosis of six months or less to live. It treats the patient physically, mentally, and spiritually to make the most of the time that they have left.
Is palliative care primary care?
Palliative care is not primary care. It is administered in addition to the care a patient receives from their primary care provider or another specialty care provider, but is not the only care.
“We’re an extra set of eyes,” says Lindsay. “So instead of just focusing on one aspect of the patient, we then focus on the whole person.”
At Crossroads, once a patient requests these services, the team asks for records from a physician, then a physical assessment is completed.
“It’s just kind of getting to know them and where their health history has taken them in the last couple of years,” explains Lindsay.
During this assessment, patients are asked about any big changes, recent hospitalizations, falls, weight loss, and medication changes.
With palliative care, do I see a nurse every day?
Patients will not see a nurse every day. Patients establish the frequency at which they see their specialists and primary medical teams, while Crossroads will supplement that care to manage their symptoms so they can continue living their lives to the fullest.
With Crossroads, patients are often seen at varying frequencies. These frequencies are determined by Crossroads, depending on the symptoms that need to be managed. Some patients are seen several times a month while others may be seen every other month. It’s a case-by-case basis and it depends on individual symptom management and needs.
On palliative care, will I go to an actual place?
Crossroads is not an actual place. For patients receiving care, the Crossroads team goes wherever they are. That can be a private residence or long-term care facility.
“Patients don’t come into our office; we go to them,” says Lindsay.
Also, if a patient moves from their home into a facility, Crossroads can follow them. Ultimately, the patient determines where their visits occur.
Can I go to the hospital while on palliative care?
Yes, with palliative care, patients can still go to the hospital on their own. But the goal is to manage their symptoms to minimize the frequency of hospital visits.
Do I have to wait for someone to offer me palliative care, like my doctor?
No. Anyone with a terminal illness or chronic condition, or their loved ones, can inquire about receiving these services. An evaluation will take place to determine if an individual is eligible for palliative care. The sooner a person begins receiving this type of treatment, the sooner they can continue living a higher quality of life and achieving their goals.
For more frequently asked questions about palliative care, visit our website or give us a call at 1-888-564-3405.
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