“All the meds I take seem to make me feel worse, not better.”
“I feel like I am a professional patient; managing my disease is all I do.”
“It feels like the doctor takes my disease seriously but not me.”
Long-standing illnesses can severely decrease the quality of life for those afflicted by them. It can be disheartening to see someone you love in pain because of an ailment. There are a few types of care that you can get for your afflicted loved ones. One of these types is palliative care, which can be administered for emotional, social, practical, and spiritual problems that severe illnesses can cause.
So, what is palliative care?
Palliative care is a specialized type of medical care for people with serious illnesses, with the primary goal of providing relief from symptoms and pain caused by those illnesses and subsequent treatment. Those illnesses can be curable, chronic, or life-threatening. Care can be administered for pain, difficulty sleeping, shortness of breath, loss of appetite, or feeling sick to the stomach. It can also be provided for those with more severe ailments such as cancer, heart disease, lung diseases, kidney failure, dementia, HIV/AIDS, or ALS. The overall goal, no matter the ailment, is to improve the quality of life for the patient, and the family of the patient.
Palliative care is provided by a specialized team of people, acting together with the patient’s other doctors, to provide another layer of support and comfort for the patient. Those providing care can be a team of doctors, nurses or nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nursing assistants, dietitians, social workers, psychologists, massage therapists, or chaplains.
Treatment for physical symptoms can be offered in the form of medication, nutritional guidance, physical, occupational, or integrative therapy. Treatment for emotional or social issues can take the form of counseling, support groups, family meetings, or referrals to mental health providers. This multidisciplinary team works together for the good of each patient regardless of prognosis.
Isn’t Palliative Care and Hospice the same thing?
The short answer is No. While both palliative and hospice focus on the comfort and care of a patient, palliative care can begin at diagnosis, and at the same time as treatment. Hospice care begins after treatment of the disease is stopped and when it is clear that the person is not going to survive the illness. Hospice care is most often offered only when the person is expected to live 6 months or less.
Palliative care can make all the difference while experiencing a disease that is not curable. Just because the disease isn’t curable, doesn’t mean that there is nothing that can be done to make life as comfortable and meaningful as possible.