Palliative care

Palliative care is specialized medical care for people with serious diseases like cancer or heart failure. Patients may get treatment for their symptoms, called palliative care, and treatment for their serious diseases. it is meant to improve someone’s current care by focusing on their and their family’s quality of life.

The Difference Between Palliative Care and Hospice

Palliative care and hospice care both help people feel better. But palliative care can start at the same time as treatment and even before it. Hospice care begins when the disease is no longer being treated, and the person will not get better.

Most of the time, hospice care is only given to people who are thought to have less than 6 months to live.

Understand Palliative Care

Palliative care is aimed at making people with serious illnesses feel better. It stops or fixes the symptoms and side effects of a disease or a treatment for it. Palliative care also helps with the emotional, social, practical, and spiritual problems that can arise from a serious illness. When people feel better in these ways, their quality of life improves.

it can be given along with treatments meant to cure or treat the disease. Palliative care can be given when a person is first diagnosed with an illness, during treatment, after treatment, and at the end of life.

Palliative care can be given to people who have diseases like:

  • Cancer
  • Heart trouble
  • Lung diseases
  • Failed kidneys
  • Dementia
  • ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis)

People can stay under the care of their regular doctor while getting care and still get treatment for their disease.

Who could use palliative care?

Palliative care serves people with serious illnesses like heart failure, COPD, cancer, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and many others. it can help at any stage of a person’s illness, but starting immediately after a diagnosis is best.

Palliative care can help patients understand their options for medical treatment, improve their quality of life and ease their symptoms. it is a set of services that can help older people who are in a lot of pain and aren’t able to do much at the end of their lives.

Who makes up the palliative care team?

A palliative care team comprises several professionals who work with the patient, the patient’s family, and other doctors to provide medical, social, emotional, and practical support. The team comprises doctors and nurses who specialize in palliative care, social workers, nutritionists, and chaplains. Depending on a person’s needs and level of care, their team may be different. A person’s health care provider may send them to a palliative care specialist to start palliative care. A person can ask a healthcare provider for a referral if they don’t suggest it.

Where is palliative care provided?

Palliative care can be given in hospitals, outpatient palliative care clinics, nursing homes and other specialized clinics or at home. Medicare, Medicaid, and other insurance plans may cover palliative care. The Department of Veterans Affairs can help veterans get palliative care. Some services might be paid for by private health insurance. When asked, health insurance companies can tell you what they will cover.

In palliative care, a person with a serious illness doesn’t have to stop getting the care that might help them get better. it can be given along with curative care, starting as soon as the diagnosis is made. Two things can happen if the doctor or palliative care team thinks that continuing treatment isn’t helping over time. Palliative care could turn into hospice care if the doctor thinks the person is likely to die within six months (see What does the hospice six-month requirement mean?). Or, the palliative care team could keep helping but focus more on care that makes the person feel better.

How can Palliative Medicine help?

Get better at dealing with pain in people with serious illnesses that may kill them.

Getting better at dealing with symptoms like shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, constipation, and tiredness.

Getting care that fits with what’s important to you. This could mean starting some treatments or tests and stopping others.

Helping with discussions about prognosis, artificial hydration and nutrition, tube feedings, and advance directives.

Helping talks between different consulting specialties improve coordination with other health care services.

When to call for palliative care

After being diagnosed with a serious or possibly life-limiting illness, you, a member of your family, or your healthcare provider can ask for a Palliative Medicine consultation at any time.

Palliative medicine could be helpful for people with cancer, heart, lung, liver, kidney, or brain diseases, severe infections, or injuries that cause a lot of pain.

Many people with serious illnesses live for years with them. A consultation tells you how to deal with your symptoms and gives you and your caregivers more help.


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