Four things you may not know about palliative care

Palliative care is a medical specialty that focuses on providing patients with relief from the symptoms and stress of a serious illness. The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family.

But many Americans still aren’t clear on what palliative care really is or how it can benefit them. Here are four things you may not know about palliative care and how it can help patients and families live well with serious illness:

1. Palliative care is available at any age and at any stage of your illness

Palliative care provides an extra layer of support for people living with serious illness, and it can be brought in from the point of diagnosis. In fact, the earlier palliative care is brought in, the better. It is not dependent on prognosis, so unlike hospice care, palliative care can be provided along with curative treatment. Receiving palliative care simply means that you want an extra layer of support to help improve your quality of life. Palliative care is about living with a serious illness.

Palliative care is available for both children and adults with serious illness, regardless of age or stage of illness. You don’t have to be elderly to receive palliative care; you just have to want to live better with serious illness.

2. Palliative care can provide support to caregivers as well as seriously ill patients

Dealing with a serious illness is stressful not only to the patient, but to their families. Caregivers often experience lost work hours or lost jobs, high stress and serious declines in physical and mental health. Palliative care doesn’t just treat the patient; it treats the entire family. According to a 2014 study, caregivers who received palliative care had an improved quality of life and lower levels of depression and feelings of being overwhelmed.

3. Palliative care is available to children with serious illnesses and their families

Children with serious illness face unique challenges. Pediatric palliative care is specialized medical care tailored to the needs of seriously ill children and their families. It helps to manage symptoms of the child’s disease, and it also helps with communication and coordination of care. With the close communication that palliative care provides, families are better able to choose options that are in line with their values, traditions and culture. This improves the well-being of the entire family.

4. You can have palliative care along with curative treatment

Palliative care is appropriate at any stage in a disease, and many patients receive palliative care alongside curative treatment. In fact, the curative treatment itself can often bring on symptoms that negatively impact a patient’s quality of life. Cancer patients like Christine Buehlmann struggle with the symptoms that accompany chemotherapy. Palliative care was provided as a complement to chemotherapy, helping to restore Christine’s energy and physical strength. Palliative care is about improving the quality of life of both the patient and their families.


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