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There is a special type of medical care available in our area that many people are not familiar with. It is called Palliative (pronounced pal-lee-uh-tiv) care. It is focused on providing patients with relief from the symptoms, pain, and stress of a serious illness- whatever the diagnosis. The goal of palliative care is to improve the patients’ quality of life as well as the family members/care takers involved. It focuses on relieving and preventing suffering. Palliative care falls under the umbrella of hospice services. This type of specialized care of medicine uses a multi-disciplinary approach to patient care relying on input from a full spectrum of medical professionals who meet and formulate an individualized plan of treatment to relieve the suffering in every aspect of the patients life be it physical, emotional, spiritual or social. Medications and treatments are said to have a “palliative effect” if they relieve the patients symptoms without having a curative effect on the underlying disease.
Palliative care is used to treat chronic and serious illnesses including, but not limited to cancer, congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, kidney failure, Alzheimer’s, HIV/AIDS and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Palliative care relieves the “symptoms” of the diseases, such as pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, constipation, nausea, loss of appetite, and difficulty sleeping. It helps the patient gain the strength and comfort to carry on with daily life, it improves the patients’ ability to tolerate medical treatments and it helps the patient have more control over their own situation by helping them better understand their treatment options so that well informed decisions can be made.
Palliative care can be used at any stage during an illness, not just in the advanced stages. Everyone involved in the patients care can benefit from this special focus of care by removing the great burden of seeing a loved one suffer. Examples of palliative care may include treatment for severe nausea related to chemotherapy, or giving/managing pain medication to someone who has suffered a broken hip.
Palliative care is offered through the home setting as well as hospitals, long term care facilities and hospices. (Unlike hospice, it can be provided at the same time as treatment that is meant to prolong your life.)
The goal of palliative care is to improve the quality of life for both the patient and the family or caregivers and prevent pain and suffering from interrupting one’s everyday life regardless of what state their life is in.
If you think you or someone you know could benefit from palliative care talk with your doctor or call us for more information.
Alice Barlow, RN, is the Assistant Administrator at Platinum Home Health
140 S. Collegiate Paris, TX