Palliative Care Scares Some People: Here’s How It Helps

At many stages of the disease, palliative care can relieve tension and provide additional support.

Many people and their families associate the term palliative care with the end of life. Some may think that palliative care and palliative care are one and the same thing. It is therefore worth explaining that palliative care is a medical specialty capable of helping people at different stages of health, and not only during a terminal illness. Above all, the services offered could help you or someone you love enjoy a better quality of life, relieve uncomfortable symptoms, and avoid unnecessary hospitalizations.

Asmedical oncologists (doctors who specialize in cancer), we have seen how helpful this care can be when people have cancer or another serious illness. Yet we find that not enough people who could benefit from this care are receiving it. By addressing misconceptions about what hospice palliative care is and who it can help, we hope more people will ask for the full spectrum of care they deserve and question whether a palliative care referral is right for them.

What is palliative care?

Hospice palliative care holistically examines ways to improve the quality of life for individuals and caregivers by

  • help people manage pain, nausea, fatigue, and other troubling symptoms associated with illness or treatment, to optimize their comfort and ability to function
  • provide support for depression, anxiety, or stressors such as finances or relationships that may be affected by a serious illness
  • improve coordination of care by communicating with other healthcare providers to ensure everyone is on the same page regarding needs and preferences
  • if applicable, explain and propose options for end-of-life care (this form of palliative care is part of palliative care).

In many health care settings, palliative care is provided by one or a few health care providers, such as a physician, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner. In others, palliative care may be provided by a team of clinicians and social workers, spiritual advisors and case managers.

People sometimes think of palliative care as a last resort; you may have heard this, or even thought this way yourself. It may help to know that the type of care we describe is now recognized as essential to treatment, even during the early stages of serious illnesses like cancer, emphysema, heart failure and kidney disease. People can and should receive palliative care while receiving curative or life-prolonging treatments.

Who can palliative care help?

Palliative care can help anyone with a serious medical condition causing physical or emotional distress.

Typically, this refers to people with life-threatening or chronic conditions such as cancer, heart disease, lung disease, neurological disorders, or kidney failure. It can also refer to people who have suffered an injury resulting in physical ailments, emotional distress, or both. So, in a sense, these services can be offered to anyone based on their symptoms rather than their specific diagnosis. Palliative care services are also available to support families and caregivers.

Why is my doctor talking to me about palliative care?

You might feel alarmed if your doctor recommends palliative care. However, it is important to understand that the benefits of palliative care are greatest when introduced soon after a new diagnosis of a serious illness, pain syndrome or physical trauma. In our practice, we tend to explain the concept of palliative care soon after a cancer diagnosis for people who could benefit from additional support.

Our goal is to offer information about resources available to support wellness, not to take away hope or scare people away. The better you feel, the better you will do. Feeling less pain, nausea, fatigue, or depression makes medical treatments and surgeries easier to tolerate, which can improve both quality and length of life.

We’ve answered frequently asked questions below.

Why is my doctor talking about palliative care?

To improve support for people going through difficult times and serious illnesses, not when “there is nothing left to do”.

Am I dying?

A referral to palliative care doesn’t mean you’re dying — it just means you and your family may need more support to help you live as long and as well as possible.

Are you still my doctor?

Yes! Palliative care providers are consultants who team up with your doctors, including your primary care physician and other specialists involved in your care.

If I have a question, who do I call?

If your question is related to a symptom or medication being managed by your palliative care team, then it is worth contacting them. However, you can never go wrong calling the primary physician directing your care, such as your oncologist if you have cancer. They can answer your question and send you to the right person.

What medications will be available to me?

All medications to help you feel better or live longer, including cancer treatments, are available if you and your doctors see fit.

Should I continue to see my palliative care provider or team?

Like any other doctor, they are available if you find you benefit from their services. If you no longer feel like you have needs that they can meet, you don’t have to continue to receive their care.

Will my family benefit from palliative care?

Yes definitely! One of the main goals of palliative care is to improve the quality of life for people and their families or carers through advice, information and help in coordinating doctor visits and tests. medical.


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