Palliative (pronounced PAL-lee-uh-tiv) medicine is a field that focuses on actively addressing the wide range of physical, psychological and spiritual symptoms that may be encountered by a patient with a life-threatening illness. It also helps their family cope with the challenges they face.
Palliative care works in tandem with cure-focused care to help improve the quality of life for everyone affected by a serious illness. It can be provided from the time a patient is diagnosed and is continued in situations where cure-focused care is discontinued, and the patient and their family are shifting their attention to hospice care and end-of-life issues.
How Palliative Care Improves Quality of Life
Palliative care is provided by a team of experts with different areas of expertise. This group typically has both primary care and palliative medicine doctors and nurses, but may also include social workers, chaplains or other spiritual counselors, dieticians, physical therapists, and palliative care volunteers.
Their coordinated efforts provide a wide range of benefits, including:
- Control of physical symptoms such as pain and discomfort, nausea, fatigue, and intestinal issues
- Relief for mental health conditions like depression and anxiety
- Better understanding of the treatment plan
- Help in dealing with the healthcare and health insurance systems, which may include decreased costs through better utilization of these resources
- Spiritual guidance and support
- Enhanced sense of control and improved peace of mind
- Greater satisfaction with the quality of care provided and attention to the patient’s needs
- Fewer unnecessary hospital visits
Whether it’s provided to patients receiving treatment for their illness or to those who have decided to stop treatment, palliative care helps patients focus more on friends and family and less on their medical condition.
The Importance of Talking About Palliative Care
Caregivers, patients, and their families may be reluctant to talk about palliative care, as there’s a mistaken perception that doing so signals a “surrender” to the illness. On the contrary, capitalizing on palliative care means embracing life by getting control of symptoms that are interfering with the enjoyment of it.
Patients and families should feel comfortable asking for information on what palliative care is and how they can benefit from it. Care teams are always happy to provide insights on palliative medicine and assist with making it a part of the treatment plan.
Learn more about palliative care at Baptist Health.