What is palliative care?
Palliative care focuses on relieving the symptoms, pain, physical stress, and mental stress of a diagnosis. The goal is to improve the quality of life for both patient and caregiver.
Relieves symptoms and side effects
Palliative care teams alleviate symptoms like nausea and fatigue, enhancing quality of life and potentially improving adherence to medical treatments.
Proper pain management allows more comfort and functionality in life, improving sleep, mood, and overall well-being by reducing the day-to-day burden of cancer.
Reduces emotional and spiritual distress
Addressing emotional and spiritual needs aids in finding peace and acceptance, lessening depression, anxiety, and fear, and supporting families throughout the illness.
Sets expectations for treatment
Clear communication helps in making informed decisions, setting realistic expectations, and better planning. This reduces anxiety and uncertainty among patients and families.
Finds treatments that match goals
Aligning care with a patient's values enhances satisfaction and likelihood of desired quality of life while avoiding unnecessary treatments and related side effects and expenses.
An example palliative care plan
Karena was referred to an outpatient palliative care team due to financial challenges, loss of independence, and unmanaged symptoms after being diagnosed with stage III colon cancer that had spread to her lungs. After several rounds of treatment, the palliative care team continuously supported her.
They managed her lung surgery, its subsequent treatment, and helped alleviate her persistent, excruciating pain. They have consistently supported her in various life aspects — from work and family responsibilities to specific health and emotional needs. By attentively listening to Karena, the team assisted her in balancing work and family life, including caring for her two teenage sons and herself. They also extended their support to her family, aiding one of her sons.
Karena's aim, like anyone tapping into palliative care with a serious illness, is to achieve the best possible quality of life. "They guide me on how to be active with my health in a positive way. I wouldn’t know what to do without palliative care,” Karena shares in a GetPalliativeCare.org podcast. She wishes she had met the palliative care team even sooner and encourages others with serious illnesses to do the same. See more of Karena’s story.
Palliative care considers each patient’s personal goals, priorities, and concerns. Since each person’s cancer differs, treatment plans also vary.
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