Palliative care (aka comfort care or palliative medicine) is a type of medical care that focuses on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of chronic conditions or a serious illness. It is typically provided by a team of doctors, nurses, and other health care providers.
This type of care can help ease the symptoms of an illness, improve quality of life, and provide emotional and spiritual support to patients and their families.
Reading this definition should make you wonder why the act of palliative care is not automatically integrated into the care of every person. After all, nearly everyone will experience some form of serious illness in their lifetime.
The answer likely has to do with the fact that palliative care is often seen as “end-of-life” care, and many people are reluctant to talk about death and dying. Although it’s true that most older people take advantage of this type of treatment near the end of their life, it’s important to know that it’s not ONLY for those who are dying.
A palliative care specialist can be beneficial for elderly patients who are living with a chronic or terminal illness, and it can be used at any stage of the disease. The focus is on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of the illness, rather than on curing the underlying condition.
This can be a difficult concept for some people to understand, since most of us are used to thinking of healthcare as being about finding a cure.
However, for elderly patients living with a chronic or terminal illness, there may not be a cure available. In these cases, palliative care can provide much-needed relief and support.
The Truth About Palliative Care
The misconceptions about palliative care are many. Some people think that it is only for end-of-life care, when in reality it can be beneficial at any stage of a serious illness.
Others believe that palliative care is the same as hospice care, but there are important differences between the two. (We’ll be discussing this later on.)
Another thing to remember is that palliative care is generally provided in addition to other forms of treatment, such as curative or disease-modifying treatments.
It is important to note that palliative care is not the same as hospice care, which is a type of end-of-life care. However, hospice care can be provided as part of a palliative care plan. (It can be confusing, I know.)
Approximately 6 million people in the United States could benefit from palliative care.Today’s Geriatric Medicine
Palliative care team members are experienced healthcare professionals who can work with you and your family to develop a care plan that meets your specific needs and preferences.
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What Does Palliative Care Mean For The Elderly?
Since the goal of palliative care is to help to ease people’s pain and to feel better, this means that for elderly adults, palliative care can be a source of great relief.
Pain management is one of the main focuses of palliative care, and this can be a huge help for elderly adults who are dealing with chronic pain. Palliative care can also help to manage other symptoms that come along with conditions like cancer, heart disease, and dementia.
In addition to physical relief, palliative care can also provide psychological and emotional support for elderly adults and their caregivers. This can be an invaluable service, as dealing with a chronic or terminal illness can be very stressful.
Palliative care providers can offer guidance and comfort to both patients and their families.
One of the main ways that palliative care differs from other types of medical care is that it is much more focused on symptom management. This means that rather than trying to cure an underlying condition, the goal is to make the person as comfortable as possible.
Again, this does not mean that there are no efforts to cure the condition, if that’s possible.
There are a variety of ways that palliative care can be delivered, depending on the needs of the individual.
It can be provided in a hospital setting, or in the home. Palliative care teams typically include doctors, nurses, social workers, etc. They work together to provide comprehensive care, addressing both the physical and emotional needs of the patient.
Palliative care can be beneficial at any stage of a chronic or terminal illness. It is often used in conjunction with other treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
Palliative care can help to ease the side effects of these treatments, and can also provide support for the family and caregivers.
What Happens When Palliative Care Starts?
The medical team of specially trained palliative doctor and nurses will work with you and your physicians to provide you with the best possible quality of life.
The team will:
- Get to know you and your family so that they can understand what is important to you.
- Work with you and your family to develop a care plan that meets your unique needs.
- Help you understand your illness and the treatment options available to you.
- Help you manage your symptoms so that you can live a better life.
- Connect you with community resources that can help you and your family.
- Provide support for you and your family members during this difficult time.
For most patients, this care means a relief from their symptoms which could include a variety of things like:
- Controlling pain so that you can be more comfortable
- Helping you breathe easier if you are having trouble with shortness of breath
- Managing nausea and vomiting so that you can eat and drink comfortably
- Providing emotional support for you and your family
As an Occupational Therapist, what I saw was that palliative care gave my older patients and their families a sense of understanding the illness they were faced with, a sense of relief that it was being taken care of and a sense of control over their current circumstance.
After all, being informed and “in the loop” during a situation should give anyone a sense of relief and control.
Whether you are facing a chronic illness or a life-limiting illness, palliative care can help you and your family live well.
What Is The Main Goal Of Palliative Care?
The main goal of palliative care is to improve the quality of life for both the patient and their family.
It does this by providing relief from the symptoms, pain and stress of serious illness. Palliative care also provides emotional and spiritual support to patients and their loved ones.
The goal of palliative care is to relieve the suffering of patients and their families by the comprehensive assessment and treatment of physical, psychosocial, and spiritual symptoms experienced by patients.The National Library of Medicine
The bottom line is (in my opinion) that this specialty should be called in when someone is fighting a pressing illness or a chronic health condition.
Who Is A Candidate For Palliative Care?
Palliative care is most often given to people of any age who have cancer, but it may also be appropriate for those with other chronic illnesses such as congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Alzheimer’s disease, and kidney failure.
Palliative care can be given in the hospital, in a nursing home, or at home. It is also sometimes provided in hospices and other specialized facilities.
What Kind Of Patients Need Palliative Care?
Patients who may benefit from palliative care include those who have been diagnosed with cancer, heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease, Alzheimer’s disease, HIV/AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and other life-threatening conditions.
Palliative care can be provided alongside curative treatment, or it can be the main focus of care for patients who are not seeking treatment to cure their illness.
What Are The Different Types Of Palliative Care?
When someone talks about different types of palliative care, what they are really referring to are where palliative care can be provided. There are essentially 4 different “types”:
- In hospitals
- In nursing homes or a hospice care facility
- At home while on hospice
- At home
The care for individuals in each of these locations by palliative care teams can vary quite a bit. Not all hospitals have palliative care teams, but for those that do, the team may be involved in the care of patients with any kind of serious illness.
Nursing homes and hospice care facilities are more likely to have dedicated palliative care teams. These teams work with staff at the facility to provide care for residents with a terminal illness.
It is also possible to receive palliative care at home from a hospice care team. In this case, the team would work with the individual’s regular caregivers to provide support and guidance on how to best manage their symptoms.
Finally, palliative care services for homebound persons can work with the person’s own physicians to provide the necessary support.
What Is The Main Difference Between Palliative Care and Hospice Care?
Palliative care and hospice care share some similarities, but there are also some key differences.
Palliative care is focused on relieving symptoms and providing comfort. It can be provided at any stage of a serious illness, even from the very beginning. Hospice care, on the other hand, is only provided when a cure is no longer possible and death is imminent.
One of the main goals of palliative care is to improve quality of life for both the patient and their family. Hospice care, on the other hand, primarily focuses on providing comfort and peace in the final stages of life.
Palliative care is typically provided in a hospital or clinic setting. Hospice care is usually provided in the home, but can also be provided in a nursing home or hospice facility.
Palliative care teams typically include doctors, nurses, social workers, and chaplains. Hospice teams also include these professionals, as well as hospice aides and volunteers.
Palliative care is often provided alongside curative treatment, such as chemotherapy or radiation. Hospice care is only provided when a cure is no longer possible.
Palliative care is typically covered by insurance, while hospice care is usually covered by Medicare.
If you or a loved one are facing a serious illness, it’s important to understand all of your options for care. Palliative care and hospice care are two important choices that can provide much-needed support.
Is Palliative Care Always Terminal?
No, palliative care is not assigned only for terminal patients. It’s purpose is to help make the person as comfortable as possible.
Palliative care is often confused with hospice care, but there are some important differences. Hospice care is typically reserved for patients who have a life-limiting illness and have chosen to forego curative treatment. Hospice care focuses on comfort and quality of life, rather than cure.
There are many myths and misconceptions about palliative care. Some people believe that palliative care is only for terminally ill patients, or that it is the same as hospice care. Others think that palliative care is only for cancer patients, or that it is a last resort option.
The reality is that palliative care can be beneficial for any patient with a serious or life-limiting illness. It is a holistic approach to care that focuses on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of a serious illness. Palliative care can be provided at any stage of an illness, and it can be delivered alongside curative treatment.
What Is The Major Problem With Palliative Care?
As medical treatments have become more sophisticated, and people are living longer, the need for palliative care has increased.
In 1900, the average life expectancy at birth was 47 years….In 2004, the average life expectancy was 77.9 years.University of Pennsylvania Health System
One of the major problems with palliative care is that it is often underutilized. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that only about one-third of patients who could benefit from palliative care receive it.
There are many reasons why palliative care is underutilized. One reason is that many patients and their families are not aware of the benefits of palliative care. Another reason is that some doctors may not be familiar with palliative care or may not think it is appropriate for their patients.
Palliative care can be an important part of the care of patients with serious illnesses. It can help relieve symptoms, improve quality of life, and provide support for patients and their families. If you or a loved one has a serious illness, talk to your doctor about the possibility of palliative care.
Why Is Palliative Care Controversial?
Palliative care can be a controversial topic, as there are differing opinions on what it should entail and when it is appropriate to provide it.
Some people believe that palliative care should only be given when a cure is not possible and death is inevitable, while others think that it can be beneficial at any stage of a serious illness. Of course, this means (in my opinion) that they are confusing palliative care with hospice.
There is also debate about whether palliative care should be focused on physical symptoms or emotional and spiritual needs.
Supporters of palliative care argue that it can improve the quality of life for both patients and their families, even if a cure is not possible. They say that it is important to address all aspects of a patient’s health, including their emotional and spiritual needs. Palliative care can also help families to cope with the stress of a serious illness.
Opponents of palliative care argue that it can lead to patients and their families feeling hopeless and resigned to death. They say that it is important to focus on finding a cure for the underlying disease, rather than managing symptoms.
But what opponents are not understanding is that palliative care can work WITH other physicians who are working to help cure their patient.
Some people are concerned that palliative care may be used as a way to hasten death, particularly in cases where a cure is not possible. However, supporters of palliative care say that it is never used to hasten death and that all decisions about treatment are made with the patient’s best interests in mind.
Palliative care is a controversial topic, but it is clear that it can be an important part of the care of seriously ill patients and their families.
How Long Is Someone Typically On Palliative Care?
The answer to this question depends on a number of factors, including the person’s overall health, the severity of their illness, and their response to treatment. In general, however, people who are receiving palliative care can expect to receive it for as long as they need it.
As some who has worked for years with elderly adults in all stages of a variety of illnesses, I have personally seen the great benefits that a palliative care team can provide. Not only for my patient but for their family as well.
I encourage you, if there ever comes a need, to inquire about consulting with these amazing specialists. I do believe that you will not regret it.