Learn about Palliative and Supportive Care
Why Palliative Care?
When you are living with serious or chronic illness, you want to understand your health condition and your options for care. You want relief from the symptoms of your illness and from the side effects of your treatment. You want to have a voice in the decisions being made about your care. You want the kind of assistance and support that helps you and your family carry on with everyday life. When you have a serious or chronic condition, you deserve care that is designed to meet your needs and improve your quality of life.
What is Palliative Care?
Palliative care is specialized health care and supportive services that help you manage the symptoms, pain and stress of your illness to allow you to achieve the highest quality of life possible. The hallmark of palliative care is that it puts you and your family in the center of decision-making and is designed to adapt to your changing physical, emotional and spiritual needs.
What are examples of Palliative Care services?
Some examples include:
- Pain management and pain relief through medication, acupuncture, meditation, herbs and other approaches
- Symptom relief for side effects like nausea, loss of appetite and shortness of breath caused by your illness or your treatment
- Guidance around difficult and complex treatment decisions
- Coordination and on-going communication by a team of providers around your plan of care
- A commitment to involving you and your family in developing your treatment plan
- Emotional and spiritual support for you and your family members
- Assistance in helping you transition between different levels of care, for example, from hospital to the home, or from a nursing home to an assisted living facility.
When should you get Palliative Care?
Palliative care is most effective when it begins as soon as you are diagnosed with a serious illness and continues for as long as you need it. The goal of palliative care is to help you live as well as possible. Palliative care is provided right alongside your regular curative care. As an example, if you are getting chemotherapy to treat cancer, palliative care can help you with the side effects of the chemotherapy. Palliative care is appropriate for people at any age and any stage of an illness. And palliative care goes beyond traditional treatment to help meet your changing needs.
Who provides Palliative Care?
Palliative care is usually provided by a team of health care professionals who are working together to coordinate your care. This team—which may include doctors, social workers, nurses, physical therapists, nutritionists, pharmacists, massage therapists, and integrative medicine specialists, among others—is in regular communication to ensure that the care being provided is consistent with the overall plan, and is in keeping with your wishes and with those of your family. While it is easier to find a palliative care team in a hospital setting, efforts to increase access to palliative care outside of the hospital are growing.
Palliative care is not the only name for the kinds of services that are patient-centered, emphasize treating the person not just the disease, and are concentrated on optimizing health and wellness for chronically ill people. Other services include Integrative Medicine and Complementary Medicine, which focus on the whole person and the mind-body-spirit connection and include a combination of conventional and complementary therapies. Examples of these complementary therapies include meditation, massage therapy, yoga, biofeedback, hypnosis, resiliency training and herbal treatments. Like the services associated with palliative care, these therapies are provided to give relief from pain, discomfort, and stress, and improve the daily lives of people living with serious illness.