What is Palliative Care?

When people think of palliative care, they usually think of hospice. However, while they provide very similar services, they’re not entirely the same. More often than not, palliative care coincides with hospice, while end-of-life treatment acts as a separate branch of healthcare. Here’s what you need to know about palliative care and why it’s important for people living with severe, life-threatening medical conditions.

The Definition of Palliative Care

Palliative care is a specialized medical treatment that aims to relieve intense symptoms associated with severe health conditions. Although hospice is not required for palliative care, the two often coincide to provide patients with the best possible quality of life. The patient’s medical team works with their loved ones to provide comfortable treatment options that support their current care plan.

Palliative care is typically reserved for situations where the patient can no longer make their own healthcare decisions. It’s also suitable for terminal illnesses such as cancer or heart failure that can contribute to immense discomfort. Even so, a patient may be receiving other treatments as they’re receiving palliative care at the same time.

Palliative vs Hospice Care

Palliative and hospice care are often associated with each other. However, there is a slight difference between the two, the main distinction being that palliative care doesn’t always have to be involved with end-of-life care. For example, some cases of cancer may include palliative care with the pursuit of recovery.

In other words, hospice care is reserved for end-of-life medical treatment, while palliative can sometimes help patients recover. While it’s typically reserved for serious illnesses, it can be a temporary solution until the prognosis of their diagnosis begins to improve. Meanwhile, palliative care in hospice is usually provided with the purpose of keeping the patient comfortable.

Why is Palliative Care Performed?

Palliative care may be provided to a person of any age or stage of their life-threatening illness. It’s commonly offered for patients undergoing treatment for severe medical conditions such as cancer and heart disease. There are many painful and uncomfortable symptoms associated with these life-threatening conditions. Thus, palliative care can temporarily relieve discomfort as patients live with these illnesses.

Symptoms that can be improved through palliative care include but are not limited to:

Nausea and vomiting
Anxiety or nervousness
Breathing difficulties

Who Can Receive Palliative Care?

As mentioned above, palliative care can be offered to anyone of any age, regardless of their condition’s stage. While common cases like cancer and heart disease were mentioned, some other medical conditions that qualify for palliative care include:

Blood and bone marrow disorders, particularly patients receiving stem cell transplants
Cystic fibrosis
Kidney failure
COPD or other lung diseases
Parkinson’s Disease
Liver disease

Granted, palliative care is not limited to the aforementioned medical conditions. In summary, anyone can benefit from palliative care if they’re living with a serious illness. It can be offered as soon as the patient is diagnosed to temporarily relieve symptoms associated with treatment. Palliative care is an important aspect of medical autonomy as it helps patients and their families understand their treatment options.
Palliative Care Teams
A palliative care team is made up of a variety of healthcare professionals. Everyone involved works with the patient and their loved ones to provide a personalized care plan that fits their needs. This may include medical, emotional, social, and practical support. Medical professionals can consist of doctors, nurses, nutritionists, social workers, and more.

As a patient or family advocate, you’ll likely undergo an initial consultation with a palliative care team to discuss treatment options. They’ll talk to you about the recorded symptoms and how it’s affecting everyone involved. The palliative care team will likely work alongside a primary care physician to assess the level of treatment needed and improve the overall quality of life.

Where Can You Receive Palliative Care?

Since palliative care isn’t restricted to hospice, it can be provided in a variety of settings. Some common options include hospitals, outpatient palliative care clinics, nursing homes, or at home. Medicare, Medicaid, and other insurance policies will most likely cover palliative care. If you or your loved one is a veteran, they may be eligible for palliative care under the Department of Veterans Affairs.

In general, one doesn’t have to be eligible for hospice to undergo palliative care. It can be one element of a patient’s care plan with the goal of curative treatment. Even so, if their symptoms don’t improve after starting treatment, a couple of options may be offered. The patient may be transitioned to hospice, or palliative care continues with an emphasis on comfort care.

Are you considering palliative care for yourself or a loved one? Our compassionate healthcare professionals at Arbors of Ohio will be happy to answer your questions. We understand how difficult these decisions may be and want to provide the best medical care possible. Contact us to discuss your palliative care options.

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