This is a good article for our readers who treat pain patients.
Written by Steph Coelho
Palliative care, sometimes called supportive care, can improve quality of life for people with chronic or other serious illnesses.
People with serious, life threatening illnesses may feel as though they carry a heavy burden. They may find it difficult to navigate the variety of treatment options and new realities of life after a challenging diagnosis.
Palliative care professionals can help relieve symptoms and improve people’s quality of life. Anyone with a serious condition, regardless of age, can receive palliative care.
Read on for more information about palliative care and what it entails.
Palliative care is specialized medical care for those living with a severe illness.
It focuses on relieving symptoms and improving a person’s quality of life. It is a need-based form of care.
Specially trained individuals make up palliative care teams. They are not the same people who provide regular medical care and treat a person’s illness.
Palliative care teams also communicate with the rest of a person’s medical team. They help ensure that people have full control over their treatment and care.
Palliative care does not signify the end of treatment. It is not hospice care and does not mean that a person cannot recover. Curative treatment can go hand in hand with palliative care.
Palliative care can happen in a variety of settings, including:
- the home
- nursing homes
- palliative care clinics
Palliative care can start at any time during a person’s illness.
However, the American Society of Clinical Oncology recommend that people with cancer receive palliative care early.
People with cancer who receive palliative care soon after their cancer diagnosis tend to have:
- a better quality of life
- improved mental health
- increased survival rates
Research from 2015 found that the 1-year survival rate of people with cancer was 63% among those who received early palliative care, compared with 48% among those who received delayed palliative care.
Another 2015 study showed that cancer patients receiving chemotherapy alongside quality-of-life care were more likely to stick to their treatment plan.
People may wish to consider palliative care if they:
- visit the emergency room frequently for their condition
- end up in the hospital three or more times per year to deal with recurring symptoms
- experience side effects from treatments
- have issues eating because of their illness
People do not need to have a life threatening illness to receive palliative care. Those with serious or chronic conditions can also benefit from this type of care.
Palliative care providers treat people with a range of serious conditions, including:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- congestive heart failure
- HIV or AIDS
- Huntington’s disease
- kidney disease
- liver disease
- multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Parkinson’s disease
- pulmonary fibrosis
- sickle cell anemia
Palliative care professionals help people with symptoms such as:
- anxiety and depression
- breathing troubles
- sleep issues
- loss of appetite
Part of palliative care also involves helping people understand their treatment options.
Care teams also work with people’s families to provide emotional and social support, as well as practical medical treatment and care.
In this way, they can help relieve the burden on loved ones. Another component of palliative care is spiritual support.