My Doctor Recommended Palliative Care. Does That Mean We’re Giving Up?
It’s normal to feel overwhelmed—even afraid—if a doctor recommends palliative care for you or your loved one, especially if you aren’t sure exactly what it means. Medical terms can be confusing, and since palliative and hospice care are related, people often confuse them. Knowing the difference can bring you and your family some much-needed peace of mind.
The difference between hospice and palliative care
Hospice is a special kind of palliative care reserved for people with terminal sickness (a condition that will end life). It starts when care to treat the disease ends and it’s time to help you or your loved one stay as comfortable as possible.
But similar care can also help people without terminal illness, including those with serious illness that can be managed over the years. That’s palliative care. Think of it as a person- and family-centered approach to care that helps with the symptoms and stress of living with a serious illness. Palliative care doesn’t replace the care you’re getting for serious illnesses. Instead, it helps make it better since it’s laser-focused on meeting you or your loved one’s unique needs.
Many can benefit from palliative care
Palliative care is for people with all kinds of serious illnesses, including patients with cancer, congestive heart failure, injuries from accidents and physical disabilities.
In each case, a patient’s primary health care team continues to treat and manage the underlying condition while the palliative care team works closely with them to ensure each decision makes sense and promotes the best possible quality of life.
Palliative care can:
- Help patients maintain their independence
- Help patients fully understand their health
- Keep serious illness from getting worse
- Reduce ER visits and hospitalizations
- Take pressure off caregivers and loved ones
Palliative care can help at any stage of the treatment plan and starting it early can bring even more benefits. For example, recent studies show that early palliative care can improve mood and quality of life, require less aggressive medical care, and help patients live longer.
Palliative care teams
Palliative care is built around a team of caring experts who are specially trained to anticipate, prevent and manage medical, mental, social and spiritual challenges—all to improve life for patients, families and caregivers. A palliative care team often includes medical social workers, nurse practitioners and physician assistants, palliative care physicians, and spiritual professionals.
Together, they set goals and design a treatment plan designed to meet each patient’s unique needs. And in every decision, patients and their caregivers play an active role.
Palliative care teams help:
- Control symptoms and side effects
- Coordinate alternative care
- Make care decisions
- Manage medications
- Provide emotional support
We’re ready to help
With a palliative team by your side, you can feel confident you or your loved one will get the most out of every day—even with the challenges of illness. And you can count on our expert, caring team to help you navigate every step of the way.
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