Many patients panic when hearing the term “palliative care” and think it means they’re dying. But it isn’t the same as hospice care, which is only for terminally ill patients. Hospice of Virginia and hospice in most places should be considered whenever someone is in the advanced stages of a progressive illness and has been given a prognosis of six months or less.
Palliative care aims to help those with serious illnesses enjoy a higher quality of life by preventing or treating symptoms and side effects of their condition and any treatment they’re receiving. It’s provided by a specially trained team of doctors, nurses, and other specialists who work with the patient’s other doctors for an additional layer of support. Palliative care is based on the patient’s needs rather than the prognosis and is appropriate at any stage in a serious illness and at any age. Unlike hospice, it’s often provided with curative treatment.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 20 million people require palliative care at the end of life, 67% among those 60 years of age or older, although children sometimes need it too. But that doesn’t always mean death – some people who undergo palliative care are cured and no longer need it.
Palliative care can make a significant difference in the quality of life for the patient and their family members by providing the following benefits.
Improving Quality and Length of Life
One of the biggest benefits of palliative care is improving quality of life. Research has found that patients who receive this type of care have reported a better ability to cope with their illness and are less likely to be depressed. It may even help some live longer too. According to Harvard Medical School, one study found that patients with metastatic lung cancer (a disease that typically has a very short prognosis) who received palliative care lived about two-and-a-half months longer than those who received standard care.
The goal of palliative care is to relieve as much suffering as possible, limiting symptoms and stress. That includes easing symptoms like depression, fatigue, pain, nausea, appetite loss, fatigue, sleeping difficulties, and anxiety.
Chronic pain can affect the quality of life, as it impairs everything from energy levels to mood and sleep. One of the primary focuses of palliative care is often relieving pain, which can be accomplished through various methods. It may be from effective medication management, alternative therapies such as acupuncture or massage, or environmental control. Palliative care teams look at all the various options to provide optimal pain relief, improve the quality of life, and make it easier for the family to care for the patient.
Matching Treatment Options With Goals
The palliative care team also works together to match treatment options with the patient’s goals. They work with the patient, the patient’s family, and other doctors to make sure everyone is on the same page, understands the condition, and what the patient wants to give them more control over their own care.