Three ways palliative care teams help caregivers  

When your loved ones are facing serious illness, you won’t let them tackle the obstacles alone. Their struggles are your struggles. Their pain is your pain. Their fears are your fears. You listen to them, care for them, and walk their disease journey with them. You’re their rock on the days when everything seems too difficult to handle. You’re there to help them in any way you can.

But who helps you?

Caregiving for a seriously ill patient may include lifting, bathing, delivering meals, taking loved ones to doctor visits, handling difficult behaviors, and managing medications and family conflicts. But this level of care can result in lost work hours or lost jobs, high stress, and serious declines in physical and mental health. In fact, 1 of 5 caregivers reports a decline in the quality of their physical, emotional, and social well-being.

If you are caring for someone receiving palliative care, it is important to know that the team will help you in this challenging role.

Palliative care (pronounced pal-lee-uh-tiv) is specialized medical care for people with serious illness. This type of care is focused on providing 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.

Here are three ways palliative care teams support caregivers

They will keep you informed

Knowing what to expect can help a caregiver prepare appropriately for the ups and downs of an illness. Families are invited to every palliative care meeting so that everyone is always on the same page. Palliative care specialists take the time to explain how the illness may affect the patient now and in the future. They will also take the time to explore the patient’s goals and help to match those to the treatment options for the disease. This so you and your loved ones can make informed decisions.

They will equip you with practical tools

When people are ill, they may have to change the way they do routine things like eating, walking, or going to the bathroom. As they help patients manage symptoms like pain and discomfort, palliative care specialists provide caregivers with methods to better assist their loved ones in these tasks. For example, knowing how to help bathe or dress your loved one without causing physical pain can be important. And, learning which foods will cause your loved one discomfort will give you assurance in knowing that you are preparing the right meals. Other tools such as how to best massage painful areas or how to properly comb hair will give you a way to alleviate their stress and give you more confidence in your role.

They will help you deal with stress too

Your loved one may be feeling frustrated and stressed. You may be feeling the same way. Palliative care specialists take the time to listen to patients and help them focus on the things they can control like creating and reaching small goals or returning to the things that bring them joy. For a caregiver, the same support can be beneficial. Palliative care specialists know that if a caregiver is not being treated for their issues, it can affect the patient’s well-being. That’s why they make caregiver stress a serious focus in their care. They will work with you to answer your questions, hear your frustrations, and help you take the necessary steps to feeling healthier and more focused in your role.

Hear from a caregiver

Mary Tibbats is a caregiver to her 88 year-old mother Mary Nolan, who has diabetes. After a rehab visit at the hospital to improve her blood flow, she went into congestive heart failure. Mary Tibbats shares how palliative care not only helped coordinate her mother’s care and improve her quality of life, but provided support to her as she dealt with caregiver burnout. We also hear from Dr. Leanne Yanni, a member of Mary’s palliative care team, on the role that it played in treating Mary and her mother in this compelling look at palliative care and caregiving.

For more information on how palliative care can support you in your caregiving journey, visit the Caregiver Corner.

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