Palliative Care 101
Palliative care can be used in conjunction with any curative care you or your loved one may be receiving. The goal of this supportive type of care is to have you maintain the best quality of life during and after any medical treatments you undergo to eradicate the disease. What that entails will vary depending on your needs, but it will always include addressing you and your family’s physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual needs.
What follows are a few of the most common misconceptions about palliative care
"Palliative care is just another name for hospice."
That's a common misconception. While hospice care is palliative,the two are not synonymous. Palliative care is not just for the dying. The goal of palliative care is to reduce suffering during any serious, life-threatening or terminal illness by providing care focused on relief of pain, symptom management, as well as, supporting the patient and family’s psychological, social, and spiritual needs. Curative treatment can be administered during palliative care.
"My doctor has never mentioned palliative care. How important could it be?"
Your doctor may not raise the topic of palliative care because he or she is focused on eradicating the disease. Palliative care is a relatively new specialty in medicine and still not widely discussed within the medical community. For those reasons, it is fine for the patient or a member of the patient’s family to ask about access to palliative care.
The good news is that with an increasing number of physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses and social workers are specializing in palliative care, this scenario is slowly changing.
"Palliative care? Isn't that just for cancer patients?"
Patients with any serious, life-limiting illness or injury, such as heart, lung or kidney disease, dementia, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, cystic fibrosis and multiple sclerosis, spinal cord or brain injury, or partial or full loss of limbs, can benefit from palliative care. The patient’s family can benefit as well.
"In palliative care, all they do is prescribe heavy-duty drugs to numb you."
While pain management is an important part of palliative care, psychological, social, and spiritual support are integral parts of it, too, depending on the patient’s (and family’s) wishes. In addition, the patient has a voice in the types and strength of pain medication.
"My mom’s doctor has suggested palliative care. Is he really saying is that there's nothing more that can be done?"
Not at all. Research has shown that early integration of palliative care in cases of serious and life-threatening disease can not only improve quality of life but also can extend life and improve outcomes.