Palliative care is a supportive approach to managing serious medical conditions, especially if you require complex care. Although palliative treatments are often associated with terminal diseases, there are substantial benefits to receiving palliative treatments, no matter the expected course of your illness.
Palliative Care Is Not Hospice Care
Although a major component of hospice care is palliative treatment, the two types of care are not interchangeable. Palliative treatments are used to manage many types of diseases and illnesses, even if the prognosis is not terminal. Your doctor may suggest palliative treatment if you have a severe illness and are having a difficult time managing symptoms.
Treatment can be used for managing pain, but may include managing side effects from current treatments or coping with changes in your body that are due to a chronic disease process. Palliative care is not limited to cancer, but it is often associated with late-stage or terminal cancer. Many conditions may warrant management through palliative services, such as organ failure, chronic pain or degenerative neurological diseases.
The confusion between palliative and hospice care can lead you to think that palliative care is used as a last resort if you have a terminal disease, or there is no hope of your condition being cured or improved. Palliative care is used as a symptom management tool and at any stage during the progression of a disease.
You may use palliative treatments in conjunction with other forms of medical care, such as standard treatments for your medical condition or experimental treatments. Palliative care can be either temporary or long-term. You may only need services until your condition improves or if a cure is found.
Interdisciplinary Symptom Management
An illness can have an effect on different aspects of your life and palliative care approaches your treatment in an interdisciplinary manner. For example, your palliative care team might include respiratory therapists, gastroenterologists or surgeons, with each member focusing on specific aspects of your care to improve your comfort and quality of life. In addition to making your physical symptoms less intrusive or painful, palliative treatments can help with psychological or spiritual needs you may have.
Anxiety and depression can often occur with serious illnesses and can exacerbate your condition, leading to a poorer prognosis. An interdisciplinary approach to managing serious illnesses can prevent unnecessary distress due to unmanaged stress and anxiety, and prevent you from developing feelings of hopelessness. If religion or spirituality is an important part of your life, you may feel comforted by having guidance from a spiritual leader.
Additionally, the interdisciplinary approach of palliative care is meaningful to the people closest to you. Just as palliative care can address your psychological and spiritual needs, the integrative level of care can address similar needs for the people who care about you.
Multiple Care Settings
You may find the idea of palliative care uncomfortable because you believe you are limited to receiving care in a hospital or nursing home. Palliative services are available in many types of care settings. Depending on your needs and the complexity of treatments, you may have medical professionals come into your home and provide care, or you may visit a local outpatient center or hospital for treatments. Palliative services are also integrated into long-term care facilities, depending on your prognosis and the level of ongoing care you require.
The need for palliative care should not be viewed as a sign of terminal illness or the inability to recover from an illness. Palliative care is an opportunity to work with a team of medical professionals who can offer various ways to improve your quality of life and reduce symptoms, if you face a serious chronic medical condition.