Palliative care may be right for you if you have a serious illness. Serious illnesses include but are not limited to: cancer, heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease, Alzheimer’s, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and many more. Palliative care is appropriate at any stage of a serious illness. You can also have this type of care at the same time as treatment meant to cure you.
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Palliative care (pronounced pal-lee-uh-tiv) is specialized medical care that focuses on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of a serious illness. It is provided by a specially-trained team of doctors, nurses and other specialists who work together with your other doctors to provide an extra layer of support. The goal is to improve your quality of life.
To do this, the palliative care team will:
- Relieve your symptoms and distress
- Help you better understand your disease and diagnosis
- Help clarify your treatment goals and options
- Understand and support your ability to cope with your illness
- Assist you with making medical decision
- Coordinate with your other doctors
In short, you can expect that your quality of life will be improved. You will have relief from symptoms such as pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, constipation, nausea, loss of appetite and difficulty sleeping. You can also expect close communication and more control over your care. Palliative care will help you carry on with daily life. It will improve your ability to go through medical treatments. And it will help you to match your goals to your treatment choices.
Most insurance plans cover all or part of palliative care, just as with other hospital and medical services. This is also true of Medicare and Medicaid. If costs concern you, a social worker or financial consultant from the palliative care team can help you with payment options.
No. The palliative care team provides an extra layer of support and works in partnership with your primary doctor.
Yes, absolutely. Your treatment choices are up to you. You can have palliative care at the same time as treatment meant to cure you.
Everyone involved! Patients as well as family caregivers are the special focus of palliative care. Your doctors and nurses benefit too, because they know they are meeting your needs by providing care and treatment that reduces your suffering and improves your quality of life.
Palliative care is available in a number of places. More and more, palliative care is available outside of the hospital in the places where you live. You, your doctor and the palliative care team can discuss outpatient palliative care or palliative care at home. Some hospitals also offer outpatient palliative care even if you have not been in the hospital. Check with your doctor.These include hospitals, outpatient clinics and at home.
A team of specialists, including palliative care doctors and nurses provide this type of care.
The palliative care team will also spend time talking and listening to you and your family. They will make sure you completely understand all of your treatment options and choices. By deeply exploring your personal goals, the palliative care team will help you match those goals to the options. They will also make sure that all of your doctors are coordinated and know and understand what you want. This gives you more control over your care.
You can have it at any age and any stage of an illness, but early in your illness is recommended.
Recent cancer guidelines say that cancer patients should receive palliative care early and together with their other treatments. People who are newly diagnosed with advanced cancer should receive a palliative care consult within 8 weeks of their diagnosis.
Ask for it! You have to start by talking with your doctor or nurse.