If you’re living with a serious or chronic illness, it’s easy to overlook symptoms of depression or anxiety. You may assume that it’s normal to feel sad or worried when you’re sick, and you may believe that your symptoms are caused by your other medical problems. And while it is normal to have days when you feel blue, if those feelings of sadness don’t go away, you’re having trouble eating or sleeping, or you’re not enjoying things the way you normally do, something is wrong. Palliative care can help.
Palliative care is medical care for people living with serious illness. It provides an added layer of support for patients and families, focused on improving quality of life. It treats the pain, symptoms and stress of your illness – including symptoms of depression and anxiety – so you can feel better and live your life as well as possible. Treating your depression will not only help you enjoy things again, it can improve your overall medical condition and help you keep with your treatment plan. In some cases, it may also help you live longer. Palliative care is available at any age and at any stage of illness and is available at the same time as your other treatments.
Palliative care is provided by a specialized team of palliative care doctors, nurses and other specialists who will work together with your other doctors to give you and your family the support you need. If you have symptoms of depression that are linked to your physical illness or the side effects of your medications, your palliative care team can work with you and your doctor to adjust your dose or explore other treatment options that will improve your quality of life.
If your depression is a separate problem, which is very common among people living with serious or chronic illness, your palliative care team can help you find the right mix of medications or therapies. This could include treatment with antidepressants, visits with a psychotherapist, or therapies like relaxation, meditation or creative outlets like art or poetry. Whatever works for you.
Palliative care can also help you manage the anxiety of living with a serious illness, by helping you keep as much control as possible. Your palliative care team can help you understand your disease and its likely course, as well as the interventions that can manage your symptoms. You and your family will be involved in treatment decisions and plans at every step of the way, so that your care plan is aligned with what you want. Your palliative care team can also help you talk to your family about what is happening.
If you, or someone you love, is living with a serious illness, ask for palliative care. Palliative care is available in the hospital, in outpatient clinics and in some areas, for home visits. Talk to your doctor about a referral to palliative care.