What is Palliative Care?
What is Palliative Care?
A blog post from the Center to Advance Palliative Care
When someone is diagnosed with a serious illness, life can change in an instant. Suddenly there are appointments to manage, symptoms to cope with and many tasks to juggle. It can be overwhelming. Sometimes it is hard to know where to turn for help. Palliative care is an important option.
Palliative care (pronounced pal-lee-uh-tiv) is specialized medical care for people with serious illness. It focuses on providing patients with relief from the symptoms, pain, and stresses of a serious illness. The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family.
Provided by a team of doctors, nurses, and other specialists who work together with a patient’s other doctors, palliative care offers an extra layer of support. It is appropriate at any age and at any stage in a serious illness and can be provided along with curative treatment.
Palliative care treats people suffering from any serious illness, including cancer, cardiac disease such as Congestive Heart Failure (CHF), Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), dementia, kidney failure, Alzheimer’s, HIV/AIDS and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Symptoms of these diseases, such as pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, constipation, nausea, loss of appetite and difficulty sleeping can be relieved with palliative care.
The point is to relieve suffering and maximize quality of life. Palliative care does this in a number of different, yet crucial ways:
- Providing expert treatment of symptoms such as pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, constipation, nausea, loss of appetite and many other symptoms;
- Devoting time to listen to you, answer your questions about your disease and treatment options and matching treatments to your individual goals;
- Helping to coordinate and share information with all of your other doctors and health providers.
Palliative care keeps the patient and family from having to be their own “quarterback”. It helps people gain the strength to carry on with daily life, and it improves the ability to tolerate medical treatments. It also enables patients to have more control over their care by improving their understanding of treatment options.
Palliative care makes it easier to concentrate on what is important each day – whether that means feeling well enough to get through a treatment, or attending a special event with family and friends.
A recent public opinion poll revealed that when people understood what palliative care had to offer, 92% said they would consider it for themselves or a loved one. Also 92% said they thought it important that palliative care services be made available at all hospitals for patients with serious illness and their families. Unfortunately, 70% said they were not at all knowledgeable about palliative care.
The good news is that hospital-based palliative care is growing at a very rapid rate. Services are also available in some outpatient settings and in the home. To find out more about palliative care in your area, visit the “How to Get Palliative Care” section on www.getpalliativecare.org.