When patients or families are dealing with a serious illness, they sometimes need extra help with medical or emotional issues. Palliative care provides that extra layer of support.
"Why didn't we choose palliative care sooner?" It's a common statement from patients and family members who have experience with palliative care. Family members often tell us they delayed care because they didn't know about the specialty or they didn't know when care was appropriate.
Palliative care helps people with a serious illness feel better – physically, emotionally and spiritually. It focuses on improving quality of life at any stage of an illness and can be offered along with curative treatment.
Care begins with an honest conversation about your needs and goals. Some of the needs addressed by palliative care include.
- Managing pain to the patient's desired level
- Managing other symptoms, including shortness of breath, loss of appetite, constipation, sleeping problems and many more.
- Reducing stress and anxiety
- Care coaching for family members
- Spiritual support
- Coordination of care with your doctors
Care can begin at any age and any stage of an illness. Numerous studies show that patients getting timely palliative care report higher quality of life scores and services more closely aligned with their priorities. Care can be provided in a hospital, nursing facility or anywhere a patient calls home.
Some families think palliative care is only for the final few days of life. Palliative care can begin at diagnosis and be an added layer of support during treatment and beyond.
Paying for hospice is a concern for many families. Many insurance policies cover palliative care after a doctor's referral. Medicare benefits includes a free palliative care consultation for most patients. Benefits provided by the Veteran's Administration also include palliative care coverage.
Because palliative care is a recent medical specialty, some hospitals or nursing facilities may have difficulty scheduling access to care.