Palliative Care Can Enhance Quality of LifeAuthor:Steven Schwartz, Ph.D. Date:October 29, 2019
Defining Palliative Care
If you or a loved one has a chronic, life-limiting condition, palliative or supportive care is likely to come up. In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that approximately 20 million people need palliative care each year.1 But what is palliative care, and how can it help you manage chronic illness?
Unlike curative care, which focuses on treating your condition, palliative care focuses on improving your comfort and quality of life. Palliative care can help you:
- Understand your condition
- Control your symptoms and side effects more easily
- Cope with the challenges of your condition and treatment
A common misconception about palliative care is that it is intended for the end of your life. Seeking out palliative care does not mean you’ve given up on a cure or started the process of hospice care. This misbelief often keeps patients from considering palliative care.
When should you consider palliative care?
Palliative care is commonly considered when patients are experiencing symptoms that affect mobility, daily obligations, or quality of life. Some of these symptoms include:
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Depression and anxiety
- Drowsiness or sedation
- Poor appetite
- Shortness of breath
You can receive palliative care in conjunction with curative care. Palliative care is an extra layer of care that you can consider at any time throughout the course of treatment. Palliative care might be a viable option If you or a loved one need additional or better coordinated relief for physical, mental, social, or spiritual symptoms. In most cases, palliative care is covered by existing health insurance.
What can you expect from a palliative care team?
Palliative care teams are usually composed of many people — physicians, nurses, psychologists, physical and occupational therapists, and social workers. Their primary goal is to relieve symptoms and stresses caused by serious chronic illness. This involves understanding the patient, the family, and their health goals. Palliative care most often takes place in the following environments:
- Nursing-care or assisted-living facilities
- Retirement communities
The palliative care team works together with your existing doctors to coordinate your care. The team will focus on the following areas:
- Identifying and treating the underlying causes of symptoms
- Tailoring care to your specific needs and challenges
- Addressing relevant psychosocial and spiritual needs
- Coordinating care for families and caregivers
All these steps together are designed to help you exercise greater control over your care.
If you think palliative care would be helpful for you, talk with your doctor to learn more.
1. World Health Organization.