If you’re experiencing a serious illness, or you have a close friend or family member who does, chances are you’ve heard of palliative care before. There are many myths circulating about this type of care. For instance, most of them confuse it with hospice care. Today, we’re going to tell you all you need to know about palliative care. We’re going to start from its definition and the differences between palliative and hospice care, and end with what you can expect if you choose the former.
What Is Palliative Care?
Palliative care is a medical specialty that focuses on treating people who suffer from serious illnesses and need someone to help them feel comfortable. Thus, it isn’t only a good option for seniors. Anyone who has to deal with a difficult-to-manage illness can consider palliative care. If you’re experiencing pain, stress, or any other kind of disease-related symptoms, the personnel of this type of facility will take care of you and alleviate your symptoms.
Palliative care aims to provide a higher quality of life for people who suffer from severe conditions. Not only that, but also help family members who have to take care of that person. Usually, it includes personnel such as physicians, physiotherapists, nurses, and occupational therapists. They collaborate with the physician who has diagnosed the ill person in order to provide the best possible care. This care system doesn’t necessarily involve transporting a patient to a special facility. While you can provide it in hospitals or other facilities, you can also do it at home.
Palliative Care vs Hospice
The main difference between hospice and palliative care is that hospice care is designed for people who have tried to treat their illness and realized that there is nothing they can do to stop it. Thus, people normally rely on hospice care when they know they don’t have much time left.
Make no mistake, people who are approaching the end of their life can also choose palliative facilities. However, it is more likely that they will choose hospice care. That is because palliative care insists more upon improving life-quality for people who have to live with an illness.
When Should You Choose Palliative Care?
The best time to decide on this type of care is immediately after the diagnosis. Most illnesses don’t allow you to waste any time. Starting palliative care doesn’t mean that you have given up on trying to cure your illness. On the contrary, it comes as an extra effort to help you manage your condition. That means that you should still collaborate with your physician. Together, you can try to find a way to cure the illness. There are people who have managed to live a healthy life after being in palliative care. That’s precisely because they didn’t give up hope.
If you’ve been diagnosed with an incurable disease, this care system can keep you comfortable for a while, depending on how much time you have left. After that, you will have to move to a hospice which can ease your transition better.
What Should You Expect from Palliative Care?
Now that we’ve explained what palliative care is and when you should choose it, and also cleared up the hospice vs palliative care confusion, it’s time to talk about what you should expect if you opt for the latter, no matter the illness you’re suffering from.
Relief from Physical Symptoms
Perhaps one of the most important roles of palliative care is to provide people relief from their physical symptoms. These symptoms can include pain, shortness of breath, trouble sleeping, feeling sick, loss of appetite, and so on. Medication, physical therapy, nutritional guidance, and occupational therapy can manage at least some of these symptoms. If you wish, you can imagine palliative care as the type of care you usually get at the hospital. The difference is that the former is much more personalized, attentive, and supportive.
Relief from Psychological Symptoms
Usually, people who suffer from a life-threatening illness don’t only have the physical symptoms to deal with. They also go through emotional ordeals. Many people fall into depression, hopelessness, anxiety, and so on. Not only that, but the people around them can also experience the same emotional symptoms. That is why palliative care also focuses on the people around the patient.
This type of care includes individual counseling and meetings with the patient and members of his or her family. It can even involve support group sessions with other patients who suffer from life-threatening illnesses as well. In extremely severe cases of depression and other mental illnesses, the personnel working in these facilities can refer the patient to a mental health provider. He or she can insist more on this type of psychological treatment.
Palliative care is also a great way to find out more about the practical aspects of suffering from a serious illness. The personnel can explain the treatment choices and how to fill out the necessary medical forms. Moreover, they can advise you on financial issues, housing, transportation options, and so on.
Last but not least, if you are a religious person and are looking for spiritual guidance during these trying times, the people who work in these facilities can help guide you through beliefs that bring you peace and acceptance.
In case you’re interested in finding out more about all the characteristics of palliative care and how to apply them, we advise you to read the Palliative Care Guidelines Manual, which explains everything from physical symptoms, to psychological ones, medication, the last days of life, and so on.
Moreover, you can access the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization to find palliative care facilities in your area and choose the right one for you.
Summing It All Up
Whether you are suffering from a severe illness and need professional help to feel more comfortable and work through your physical and emotional symptoms, or you have been diagnosed with an incurable disease and need more attentive supervision, palliative care is one of the best options you have.