What is palliative care?
It is hard to live with a serious illness. You may feel lonely, angry, scared, or sad. You may feel that your treatment is doing more harm than good. You may have pain or other disturbing symptoms. Palliative care can help you and your loved ones cope with all of these things.
Palliative care is a kind of care for people who have serious illnesses. It is different from care to cure your illness, called curative treatment. Palliative care focuses on improving your quality of life-not just in your body, but also in your mind and spirit. Sometimes palliative care is combined with curative treatment.
The kind of care you get depends on what you need. Your goals guide your care. Palliative care can help reduce pain or treatment side effects. Palliative care may help you and your loved ones better understand your illness, talk more openly about your feelings, or decide what treatment you want or do not want. It can also help with communication among your doctors, nurses, and loved ones.
Why would I want palliative care?
Palliative care providers are interested in what is bothering you and what is important to you. They want to know how you and your loved ones are doing day-to-day. They understand that your illness affects not just you, but also those you love.
Your palliative care providers will ask questions about how your illness affects your emotions and spirit. Then they will try to make sure that your medical care meets your goals for your body, mind, and spirit. They will also help you make future plans around your health and medical care.
You might see a palliative care provider just once or maybe more often. He or she will work with your other doctors to give you the best care possible.
Who is involved in palliative care?
Palliative care actively involves you and your loved ones. Together you will work with health care providers in your doctor's office or your home, or in a hospital, nursing home, or hospice. If you are interested in palliative care, talk with your doctor. He or she may be able to manage your palliative care needs or may refer you to someone who is trained in palliative care.
Many hospitals now have palliative care teams. These teams often include palliative care doctors, nurses, and social workers. The teams may also include spiritual advisors, dietitians, occupational therapists, pharmacists, physical therapists, respiratory therapists, and volunteers.
How can I work with a palliative care team?
Good communication is a large part of palliative care. Your palliative care providers will encourage you to listen to your feelings and to talk about what is most important to you. They will also try to explain things to you and your loved ones in ways you can understand. Then they will work with your primary care doctor to make sure that your care is meeting your goals, such as managing disturbing symptoms or making future plans.
You may talk about anything and everything during a palliative care visit, including:
- Pain and medicine side effects.
- Emotional and social challenges, such as helping your family get along better.
- Spiritual concerns.
- Goals and dreams.
- Hospice care.
- Advance directives. Advance directives are instructions to your doctor and loved ones about what kind of care you want if you become unable to speak for yourself.
Frequently Asked Questions
Learning about palliative care:
Receiving palliative care: