This article is for you if you or someone you love is suffering from a serious disease and is looking into palliative care to help them through this hard time. Included in this article are some palliative care fast facts such as what is palliative care, different types of palliative care, the differences between palliative care and hospice care, when and where to get palliative care, how to choose the right palliative care for you, and some palliative care FAQs.
What Is Palliative Care?
Palliative care is care given to those near the end of their life who are seeking comfort. It’s main goal is to help patients reach the end of their life with as little pain and discomfort as possible. You may have also heard of palliative care as comfort care, supportive care, and symptom management. It is not uncommon for terminally ill patients to receive palliative care along with a treatment plan that is focused on recovery as well. Common illnesses that palliative care serves are heart diseases, lung disease, dementia, cancer, kidney failure, AIDS, Huntington’s disease, liver disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, pulmonary fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, and many others. The main goals of palliative care are:
- To keep symptoms such as pain, depression, fatigue, nausea, anxiety, etc. minimal.
- To improve health when possible.
- To assist with mobility and safety.
- To allow meaningful interactions between the patients and others.
- To improve emotional well-being through counseling.
- To allow patients to express their feelings at this difficult time.
- To help patients make the best decisions for themselves.
- To help reduce the burden on caregivers through training and assistance.
Overall, palliative care focuses on the individual instead of just their disease.
What Are the Different Types of Palliative Care?
The palliative care you receive will differ depending on the illness you have. Each illness will require different specialists, and therefore slightly different treatment plans. Therefore, there are as many different types of palliative care as there as serious diseases.
A specific type of palliative care for children is known as pediatric palliative care. This is most often for children experiencing serious medical conditions such as genetic disorders, cancer, prematurity, neurological disorders, heart and lung conditions, etc. As the patient in pediatric palliative care is a child, pediatric palliative care puts a large emphasis in including the entire family. Pediatric palliative care will also usually include a play therapist, child life therapist, and a child behavioral specialist on the care team.
Palliative Care Vs. Hospice Care
Probably one of the most well-known types of palliative care is hospice. Palliative care is often seen more as a philosophy of care, whereas hospice care plans will carry that philosophy out in the treatment. While hospice care often includes palliative care, they are not the same thing. For example, hospice care is normally prescribed to patients who have 6 months or less to live, whereas a patient can receive palliative care no matter how much time they are expected to have left. Along with that, hospice care is usually something offered to the elderly whereas palliative care can be given to a patient of any age. Friends and family are usually more involved with the actual care that goes along with hospice care as well. Both palliative care and hospice care focus not only on the patient, but also their caregivers by offering counseling for both. Hospice care usually does not offer any options for curing, whereas palliative care can be used while also seeking options for a cure. It is not uncommon for both hospice care and palliative care to be used together for a patient.
When Should You Get Palliative Care?
It is recommended that start receiving palliative care as early in the care program as possible. If you do this, you will get the benefit of receiving palliative care along with treatment for your illness at the same time. For example, patients who are diagnosed with advanced cancer are recommended to receive a palliative care consult within 8 weeks of their diagnosis.
Where Do You Get Palliative Care?
Palliative care is offered to patients at home, hospitals, hospice facilities, skilled nursing facilities, long-term care facilities, long-term acute care facilities, assisted living facilities, group homes, and clinics.
For patients who prefer to receive palliative care at home, it is often because they are tired of constant and unwanted trips to the hospital to treat their various symptoms. It often includes a 24/7 telephone hotline to a nurse who will help you know whether or not you need to go to the emergency room. It may also include a nurse to come visit and a meal delivery service.
What’s the Right Palliative Care Option for Me?
In order to find the right palliative care option for your individual circumstance, speak to your doctor, nurse, and social worker. They will often direct you to a palliative care specialist who will help you find the right treatment option for you.
Once you find your palliative care team, they will help further to help you know exactly what your treatment should look like. A lot of palliative care is communicating with your care team. They will spend time talking and they will spend time listening. They will prioritize making sure you understand all your treatment options and help you decide what is best for you. They will try to understand your goals so they can find a treatment plan that will best help you achieve those goals. They will work with all your doctors as well to make sure they understand your goals as well. Overall, they want to help you have more control over your treatment and your life.
Palliative Care FAQS
- Should I even be looking into palliative care?
You should be looking into palliative care if you have a serious illness. You can receive palliative care at any stage of your illness and can be received at the same time as receiving treatment meant to cure you, unlike hospice care.
- Does Medicare cover palliative care?
Most private insurances along with Medicare and Medicaid will cover palliative care as long as certain criteria are met (these differ by state). Some treatments and drugs may not be covered depending on your illness, and you also may be subject to a co-pay. The average cost for palliative care is $95.30 per day. If there are issues with cost that you come across, talk to your social worker or your hospital’s financial counselor and they may be able to find a way to help.
- By receiving palliative care, am I getting rid of my current doctor?
Absolutely not. The palliative care team works as extra support and will coordinate with your doctor to ensure you are getting the best treatment available.
- How does palliative care help my family?
Palliative care will help your family by preparing them for physical changes that may happen during the end of life along with helping them emotionally by offering counseling.