Palliative care has been around for centuries and has been a board-certified medical specialty in the United States since 2006. Palliative medicine, which focuses on comfort care, symptom management, and pain relief, is familiar to most people.
If you break a bone, the doctor will immobilize it with a cast and prescribe pain relievers to keep you comfortable. The cast is curative, whereas the medications are palliative: they improve your quality of life while you and your doctor work to repair the broken bone.
Palliation is defined as “making a disease or its symptoms less severe or unpleasant without treating the underlying cause.”
Palliative care is typically provided in the context of serious illness, such as chronic, progressive pulmonary disorders, renal disease, chronic heart failure, HIV/AIDS, progressive neurological conditions, cancer, and so on. It meets a patient’s physical, emotional, and psychosocial needs while also providing comfort and improving quality of life.
An oncologist, for example, who prescribes chemotherapy to treat cancer will also address nausea, depression, and anxiety by prescribing an anti-anxiety medication, recommending a therapist, or arranging for pet visits. A social worker or chaplain will also provide family support. All of these coping mechanisms are considered palliative: they improve a patient’s quality of life while the patient and doctor work to treat cancer.
What Is the History of Palliative Care?
Palliative care evolved from the hospice movement. Palliative care specialists or teams are now available in 1,700 hospitals with 50 or more beds. They collaborate with a patient’s healthcare team and specialists to address the physical, psychological, social, and spiritual distress caused by serious illness and treatment. These days all it takes is to look up in-home palliative care near me.
The Downstream Effect
Ann’s advanced liver disease no longer receives curative treatment. While she is no longer receiving treatment for the liver disease, she is receiving care—palliative care—to ensure her comfort. Ann now receives medications to relieve her pain and nausea, massage therapy to relax her, and chaplain visits to help her prepare for what lies ahead.
Palliative care, also known as comfort care, focuses on achieving the highest possible quality of life for those nearing the end of their lives, and “the control of pain, other physical symptoms, and psychological, social, and spiritual issues is paramount.”
However, while palliative care has many benefits for patients, researchers have discovered that caregivers experience a “positive downstream effect” when their loved one receives palliative care.
Making seriously ill patients more comfortable can actually relieve stress on their caregivers.
Bob, Ann’s husband, is less worried because she is calm and pain-free. He can get a good night’s sleep. Every day, he is well-rested and ready to focus on his wife’s care. He’s more capable of dealing with day-to-day chores and challenges.
Caregivers experience stress when a sick loved one is present in the home. However, if that sick loved one is at ease and comfortable as a result of palliative care, everyone breathes a little easier and the burden of caregiving is lighter.
Palliative care can help cancer patients in a variety of ways.
You are not alone as a cancer patient, but each patient has a unique experience with the disease. Your disease and feelings of well-being are influenced by your age, race, culture, support system, and unique personality. They also have an impact on the type of palliative care you may require. Palliative care is not a cure or treatment for cancer. Palliative care, on the other hand, alleviates physical, emotional, and psychosocial symptoms. It can begin with a cancer diagnosis and continue through all stages of treatment and follow-up until the end of life.
Palliative care can benefit cancer patients by alleviating and reducing physical, mental, and emotional symptoms. Read on to learn more about how palliative care can benefit cancer patients.
Following a cancer diagnosis and treatment, patients and families must develop coping mechanisms. Palliative care can address depression, anxiety, and fear through counseling, support groups, and family meetings, among other things.
Cancer physical symptoms include pain, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea/vomiting, shortness of breath, and sleep loss. Drugs and holistic approaches such as nutrition and deep breathing address those symptoms, while palliative chemotherapy can shrink a tumor that causes pain.
Cancer patients and their families have concerns that extend beyond the illness. Financial pressures, legal issues, employment concerns, transportation and housing issues may all be present. Understanding the language and specifics of medical forms can be difficult. A palliative care team member can help you find community resources, answer questions, and make practical suggestions.
Whether your faith is your anchor or it feels as if it has abandoned you, a cancer diagnosis brings spiritual issues to the forefront. Even those who had no religious beliefs prior to becoming ill wonder, “Why is this happening to me?” or “What happens after we die?” Palliative care addresses your concerns in the context of your culture and traditions in order to help you accept what is.
Quality of Life
Palliative care has been shown to improve quality of life. You feel better and live better when your symptoms are under control and you have the assurance that someone is listening to you. Palliative consults reduce healthcare costs because you choose to avoid the hospital and decline unnecessary tests and treatments; at some point, more treatment does not equal better care. Palliative care meets all of your needs if and when curative treatments are no longer effective.
Where Can I Get Palliative Care?
Cancer centers and hospitals that have palliative specialists or an entire team on staff provide palliative care. Some cancer centers have programs or clinics that focus on specific palliative issues, such as lymphedema, pain management, sexual function, or psychosocial issues. Palliative care may be provided by a hospice team or a physician if you live at home or in a long-term care facility.