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How Palliative Care Helps Families and Caregivers

Palliative Care and Families

The Downstream Effect

Ann no longer receives curative treatment for her advanced liver disease. While she's no longer receiving treatment for the liver disease itself, she is receiving care—palliative care—to ensure she is as comfortable as possible. Now, Ann receives medications to relieve her pain and nausea, massage therapy to relax her and visits from a chaplain to help her face what lies ahead.

For those near the end of life, palliative care, or comfort care, focuses on achieving the highest possible quality of life and “the control of pain, other physical symptoms and of psychological, social and spiritual issues is paramount.”¹ But, while palliative care offers many benefits to the patient, researchers are finding that caregivers experience “a positive downstream effect” when their loved one receives palliative care.² Helping seriously ill patients be more comfortable can actually reduce the stress on their caregivers.

Reducing Stress

Palliative Care Body

Studies have shown that family caregivers of seriously ill patients who receive palliative care show improved stamina and social functioning and have less symptoms of depression.² Because Ann is calm and without pain, her husband, Bob, is less anxious. He is able to get a good night’s sleep. Each day he is well-rested and ready to focus on taking care of his wife. He’s better able to tackle the day-to-day chores and challenges.

When there’s a sick loved one in the home, caregivers feel the strain. But if that sick loved one is at ease and comfortable due to the effects of palliative care, then everyone breathes a little easier and the burden of caregiving becomes a little lighter.

¹Kinzbrunner, Barry M., et. al. End-of-Life Care: A Practical Guide. New York: McGraw Hill Companies, Inc. 2011. p.445. Print.

²Early Palliative Care Provides Important Benefits for Family Caregivers of Patients with Cancer.

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