When people hear the words “palliative care” they often instantly think “end of life care” however that is not necessarily the case! Palliative care is given throughout a patient’s experience with cancer. It should begin at diagnosis and continue through treatment, follow-up care, and the end of life, if needed.
Below are some of the most common questions surrounding palliative care.
WHAT IS PALLIATIVE CARE?
The goal of palliative care is to help patients attain the highest quality of life, focusing on pain relief, and treating the symptoms and stresses of cancer or other serious illness. It also supports the emotional, physical and spiritual needs of patients and their families with life-limiting or life-altering illnesses.
- Physical Needs: Common physical symptoms include pain, fatigue, appetite loss, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath and insomnia. Many of these can be relieved with medicines or by using other methods, such as nutrition and cancer rehabilitation therapy.
- Emotional Needs: Palliative care specialists can provide resources to help patients and families deal with the emotions that come with a cancer diagnosis and cancer treatment. Depression, anxiety and fear are only a few of the concerns that can be addressed. Experts may provide counseling, recommend support groups, hold family meetings, or make referrals to mental health professionals.
- Spiritual Needs: With a serious diagnosis, patients and families often look more deeply for meaning in their lives. Some find the disease brings them more faith, while others question their faith. An expert in palliative care can help people explore their beliefs and values so they can find a sense of peace or reach a point of acceptance that is appropriate for their situation.
- Practical Needs: Cancer patients may have financial and legal worries, insurance questions, employment concerns and concerns about completing advance directives. For many patients and families, the technical language and specific details of laws and forms are hard to understand. To ease the burden, the palliative care team may assist in coordinating the appropriate services.
WHO GIVES PALLIATIVE CARE?
At Woman’s, we provide palliative care as part of a multidisciplinary team. This palliative care team includes doctors, nurses, registered dietitians, physical therapists, pharmacists, social workers, psychologists and chaplains.
It’s important to note that if a person accepts palliative care, she will continue to receive cancer treatment.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PALLIATIVE CARE AND HOSPICE?
Although hospice care has the same principles of comfort and support, palliative care is offered earlier in the disease process. A person’s cancer treatment continues to be administered and assessed while she is receiving palliative care.
WHERE DO I RECEIVE PALLIATIVE CARE?
Woman’s has palliative care specialists on staff. Additionally, we offer programs that address specific care issues, such as lymphedema, pain, nutrition and social challenges. A patient may also receive palliative care through hospice, or at a facility that offers long-term care.
IS PALLIATIVE CARE ALSO FOR CAREGIVERS?
Family and caregivers are an important part of cancer care, and it’s common to become overwhelmed by the extra responsibilities. Many find it difficult to manage other obligations, such as work, and they experience stress over helping loved ones in difficult medical situations. Palliative care can help families and friends cope with these worries and fears and give them the support they need.
HOW DO I ASK FOR PALLIATIVE CARE?
Patients and their loved ones should ask their doctor about palliative care. In addition to discussing their needs for symptom relief and emotional support, it’s important for patients to tell their doctor about what they want to know, how much information they want, and when they want to receive it.
WHO PAYS FOR PALLIATIVE CARE?
Palliative care services are usually covered by health insurance, Medicare and Medicaid.
Learn more about Woman’s Palliative Care.
The Breast and GYN Cancer Pavilion, a partnership between Woman’s Hospital and Mary Bird Perkins – Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center is here to support you from the day you receive your cancer diagnosis through survivorship.