Palliative Care for Patients
Benefits of Palliative Care
When a cancer patient gets therapeutic massage or counseling, those are considered palliative care: they make the patient feel better. Radiation, chemotherapy or surgery falls under the heading of curative care: they are meant to remove the cause of the cancer. Many people receiving curative care also receive (or should receive) the benefits of palliative care to address the discomfort, symptoms and stress of serious illness and curative care.
Palliative care treatment grew out of the hospice movement. Today 80 percent of hospitals with 300 or more beds offer a palliative specialist or palliative team who work with the patient’s other physicians to address the physical, psychological, social or spiritual distress of serious illness and its treatment. Palliative care treats people suffering from serious and chronic illnesses, such as cancer, congestive heart failure, COPD, kidney failure, AIDS, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS, etc.
What is a Palliative Care Team?
Palliative care is coordinated by a team headed by clinicians board certified in hospice and palliative medicine. They create a unique plan of care based on the goals of the patient and family. They involve additional appropriate team members: social worker, chaplain and specialists like a registered dietician, music therapist and/or counselor. Working collaboratively with the patient’s medical team, the palliative care team may care for a patient at any time during the course of the illness, during or following curative treatment.
Problems Palliative Care Addresses:
- Advance directives
- Difficulty breathing
- Family concerns, stress and fear
- Financial matters
- Legal issues
- Loss of appetite
- Medical and insurance forms
- Questions of faith
- Sleep problems
- Transitioning to end-of-life care
- Weight loss
Is Hospice Care Palliative Care?
Yes, hospice care is palliative care; it too focuses on comfort and support rather than cure. The benefits of palliative care are available to anyone coping with serious illness; hospice is defined as comfort care for patients with a life expectancy of six months or less.
How Long Does Palliative Care Continue?
Palliative care can begin at diagnosis and continue alongside curative care. Hospice care begins when curative therapies no longer control the disease; the patient and the patient’s physician agree that curative treatment is no longer effective and/or that the side effects outweigh the benefits.
Who Pays for Palliative Care?
Most insurance providers offer palliative care coverage. Medicare and Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California) cover only hospice care, during the last six months of life
Where Can I Get More Information?
Ask your primary care physician or specialist whether you would benefit from palliative care. A palliative care consult is free and can determine your customized plan of care.
Additional Palliative Care Resources: