Updated: September 29, 2019
Palliative care is specialized medical care for people with serious or life-threatening disease, such as cancer. Palliative care is care given to improve the quality of life related to psychological, social, and spiritual problems. The goal is to prevent or treat, as early as possible, the symptoms, and side effects of the disease and its treatment as well as stress.
Palliative care is also called comfort care, supportive care, and symptom management. It can be given in the hospital, an outpatient clinic, a long-term care facility, or at home under the direction of a physician.
Medication, nutritional support, emotional support, relaxation techniques, spiritual support, and other therapies along with chemotherapy, surgery, or radiation therapy is provided in palliative treatments depending on your treatment plan. Patients who receive both treatment for the cancer and treatment to ease side effects at the same time, often have less severe symptoms, better quality of life, and report they are more satisfied with treatment.
Children with cancer can also go for palliative care. In such cases, parents usually work with the health care team to manage symptoms of their children to feel them as comfortable as possible starting from diagnosis. Counseling of family members, including siblings is a part of palliative care to better cope with the diagnosis of the child.
To improve quality of life is the main aim of palliative care. Palliative care specialists treat people suffering from many serious disease types and chronic illnesses, including cancer, cardiac disease such as congestive heart failure (CHF), kidney failure, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and many more.
The focus is given on easing the symptoms of the disease as well as the type of treatment. Palliative care helps you easing the symptoms of many disease including pain, depression, anxiety, fatigue, shortness of breath, constipation, nausea, loss of appetite and difficulty sleeping. It also helps you gain the strength to carry on with daily life as well as improves your ability to tolerate medical treatments. It also helps you understanding your choices for treatment.
Palliative care team include:
Your oncologist is the first person you should ask about palliative care. An oncologist is a doctor who specializes in treating cancer. Usually your oncologist will be the leader of your health care team. The doctor will designing your treatment plan and decide on medicines and dose. He or she will create your palliative care plan by talking with other health care professionals which could be a palliative medicine physician or pain specialist.
This is a doctor who specializes in both palliative care and hospice care. He or she works with the health care team to relieve symptoms and side effects. A palliative medicine physician will also make sure the treatment plan is aligned with his or her goals and values by talking with the patient.
Pain specialists are experts at finding the cause of pain and treating it. They can relieve pain by medication, recommending a rehabilitation program, and/or perform pain-relieving procedures. Most often. an oncologist or palliative medicine physician may be able to control your pain without referring you to a pain specialist.
A dietitian can help address symptoms such as nausea or appetite loss. Dietitians may also provide advice about nutritional supplements and help create specialized eating plans.
A physical therapist helps maintain mobility and improve how well a person moves. He will involve you in exercise programs to maintain or improve your physical strength during and after treatment.
The nurses are the main contact for the rest of your health care team. They help manage pain and other symptoms. If you receive palliative care at home, nurses will visit you regularly to ensure you receive the care you need.
Palliative care is given at every step of the treatment process which provides an extra layer of support for people with any stage of cancer. But hospice care is a specific type of palliative care which is only provided to people with cancer who are expected to live 6 months or less. In case of advanced cancer, treatments to improve symptoms or treatments directed at the cancer are focused. If you choose to stop treatment for the cancer, the focus may be on relieving symptoms and allowing for additional support in all areas of your life.