What is Palliative Care? Everything You Need to Know

April 20, 2021

palliative care

According to the Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC), there are about 90 million Americans that are living with a serious illness. Over the next 25 years, this number is expected to more than double with the Baby Boomer generation aging.

There are approximately 6 million people in the U.S. that could benefit from palliative care, according to CAPC. This is a medical specialty that focuses on helping to improve the quality of life for individuals who are dealing with serious illnesses. Palliative care is appropriate for any stage in a serious illness and at any age.

The growth of palliative care as a medical specialty has been exponential in hospitals over the last several years. However, access to palliative care is not equally available in all U.S. states at this point.

Are you wondering “what is palliative care” and whether it’s an appropriate choice for your loved one? Let’s take a look at everything you should know about this form of care.

What Is Palliative Care?

The word “palliate” means to alleviate the symptoms of a disease or the disease itself without curing it. Palliative care is care that is focused on easing the suffering an individual is experiencing due to an illness. Even if a person has an incurable disease, they can receive palliative care that can help provide treatment for their symptoms.

Some of the conditions that an individual might receive palliative care for include, but aren’t limited to are:

  • Congestive Heart Failure
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Parkinson’s
  • Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
  • Motor neurone disease and multiple sclerosis
  • Renal disease
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • Liver disease
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Stroke and other neurological conditions

The primary goals of palliative care are to relieve discomfort and pain while also relieving stress in both the patient and the caregiver.

Through palliative care, both the patient and the caregiver can learn tools that make living with a serious illness a much more manageable endeavor. In addition to managing the physical symptoms of an illness, this approach considers the social, emotional, and spiritual needs of individuals.

Palliative care at EverHeart Hospice can help both patients and their families have a much higher quality of life.

When people are living with a potentially life-limiting or serious illness, palliative care offers a patient-centered and comprehensive approach to improving their quality of life. It is often given in combination with other treatments that are intended to help cure the underlying illness.

There are a lot of symptoms that can accompany diseases. Symptoms such as nausea and pain, fatigue, shortness of breath, anxiety, depression, stress, and other uncomfortable symptoms can be alleviated with palliative care. A treatment plan can be created by palliative care teams to take into account the specific wishes and goals of each particular patient.

What Is the Goal of Palliative Care?

The goal of Palliative care is to relieve the suffering of both patients and their families. This is accomplished through the treatment and comprehensive assessment of psychosocial, physical, and spiritual symptoms that a patient experiences.

If a patient is approaching death, more aggressive palliation might be required. At this time, comfort measures will be intensified as well as the support that is provided to the patient’s family members. After the death of a patient, palliative care continues to offer support for the family and focuses on bereavement.

Where Is Palliative Care Provided?

Although palliative care has historically been provided in hospitals, today, palliative care can be provided in a number of different locations. An individual with a serious illness might receive palliative care at home, hospitals, nursing homes, outpatient palliative care clinics, assisted living facilities, or in other specialized clinics.

Is Palliative Care Covered by Medicare?

There are a variety of ways to pay for palliative care. At EverHeart Hospice, anyone can receive care, regardless of ability to pay.

This type of care is treated in the exact same way other medical services are treated. This means that most insurance plans, including Medicaid and Medicare, cover part or all of the palliative care.

Through the Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans also might be eligible for palliative care coverage. If a member of your family would benefit from palliative care, it is a good idea to talk with their insurance provider to find out exactly what would be covered.

Both original Medicare and Medicare Advantage cover palliative care when it is determined to be medically necessary. Check with your local palliative care provider for more detailed information on how palliative care is covered.

What Is Included in Palliative Care?

What does palliative care involve? Palliative care consists of a number of different components.

The main goal of palliative care is to help relieve the discomfort and pain that patients experience. The health care professionals at EverHeart Hospice can help control and manage symptoms that the individual is experiencing to help them remain as comfortable as possible during their illness.

Another important part of palliative care is ensuring that all of the patient’s needs are fully met. At the same time, they make sure that there is clear communication between the patient, family, and doctors.

Palliative care focuses on the whole person in a holistic manner. This means that they don’t just offer support for physical symptoms. They also help in any way the patient needs, including emotional, spiritual, psychological, or social needs.

This form of care offers support for caregivers and family members alike. Palliative care can help take some responsibilities off the shoulders of the loved one providing care, and also provide them the tools they need to cope.

Can You Recover from Palliative Care?

While many people who have terminal or life-threatening illnesses are served by palliative care, receiving palliative care doesn’t necessarily mean that an individual is going to pass away as a result of their illness.

Some individuals might be cured of their disease and therefore will no longer need palliative care. Other people might move in and out of palliative care as they feel it is needed.

If you decide to stop pursuing a cure for your illness and it is your doctor’s opinion that you are in the last several months of life — you can then move into hospice care.

Your family members can also receive spiritual and emotional support from palliative care. This type of care can help them learn about your condition and assist them in their role as caregivers. Some programs even offer home assistance and support, which can include meal preparation, shopping, and respite care in order to help caregivers have some time off.

How Can Palliative Care Help?

Palliative care can assist in a number of ways when you or a loved one is suffering from a serious illness. Let’s take a look at four different ways that palliative care can help.

Coordinate Your Care

One of the strengths of palliative care teams is their communication skills. They put a great deal of focus on communication between you, your doctors, and your family in order to make sure that all of your needs are met. These include helping with care coordination, decision-making, and establishing goals for your care.

Provide Relief from Symptoms, Stress, and Pain

Our palliative care practitioners at EverHeart Hospice are made up of specialists who know how to manage a number of symptoms, such as:

  • Fatigue
  • Pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Constipation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Depression
  • Difficulty sleeping

One of the benefits of palliative care is that it can sometimes help you gain the strength to continue participating in your daily life. It can also help you tolerate medical treatments.

Your team will be able to help you match your personal goals and needs to the appropriate treatment choices for you. They can also help you understand the potentially complicated medical information that doctors provide. Your team is there to help you cope in a number of ways so that your life can be as comfortable as possible.

Provide Support to Families and Caregivers

It is incredibly common for adult Americans to fulfill a caregiving role to a family member who has an illness or is elderly. Caring for relatives can result in high stress, declines in mental and physical health, and lost work hours or lost jobs. Palliative care is a solution that can help with many of these issues. EverHeart Hospice does not want you to go it alone.

Palliative care helps to keep caregivers informed. There will likely be ups and downs to any illness, and palliative care can help caregivers prepare appropriately for what they can expect.

Specialists in palliative care take the time to explain how a disease or condition might impact the patient both now and in the future. They will also help explore the patient’s goals in order to help match those goals with the different treatment options that are available. This provides you and your loved ones the ability to make informed decisions.

It is easy for everyone involved to feel stressed and frustrated when a loved one is ill. Palliative care specialists at EverHeart Hospice can help patients focus on the things that they can control, and they can offer similar support for caregivers.

They will also be available to hear caregivers’ frustrations, answer their questions, and help them understand what steps they need to take in order to be healthier and more capable in their role.

Caregivers can learn how to cope through palliative care. They can help improve feelings of being overwhelmed, depression, and overall quality of life.

Improve Your Overall Quality of Life

By helping relieve your symptoms, understand medical information and make medical decisions, and take some pressure off of caregivers — palliative care can help improve the quality of life for both the patient and their caregivers. The advice, services, support, and information provided by a palliative care team can help make daily life far more manageable.

Your palliative care team can also help to provide emotional, practical, and spiritual support as you need it.

How Long Can You be in Palliative Care?

How long an individual remains in palliative care depends entirely on their illness and their circumstances. One patient might need palliative care only for a few weeks if they have a condition that is causing them to be very ill. Other individuals might need palliative care at intervals over a time period of months or several years.

If you or a loved one might benefit from palliative care, consider making a referral. This starts with a free consultation that can occur either over the phone or in-person.

What to Expect from Palliative Care

The short answer to this question is that you can expect your quality of life to improve. This is made possible by the carefully designed care and treatment plan that suits your specific goals and needs. Whether you need help with pain relief, emotional support, making treatment decisions, or more — palliative care can give you the support you need.

The Palliative Care Practitioners at EverHeart Hospice can help relieve the symptoms that you are experiencing and help make your life more comfortable. You can also expect to have more control over your care and have close communication with your team.

You can expect palliative care to assist you in your ability to carry on with daily life. It will make it easier to get through medical treatments and help you match your treatment choices with your own specific goals.

When Is Palliative Care Recommended?

An individual that has been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness or a long-lasting, serious disease might find that palliative care can help make their life and the lives of their loved ones tremendously easier. Palliative care can be provided in conjunction with the medical treatment you are receiving from your doctors. Palliative care practitioners work alongside your primary care physician by providing recommendations for your care.

A palliative care practitioner from EverHeart Hospice can work with you to identify your goals and help you reach them. This can encompass anything that would enhance your quality of life, including counseling, symptom relief, or spiritual comfort. Your provider can also educate you about all of the different treatment options available.

It’s important to understand that you do not have to give up your regular treatments or doctors in order to receive palliative care. You can pursue a cure for your illness and receive palliative care at the same time.

An individual who has been hospitalized several times for a serious disease within the previous year — or has had to make several emergency room visits, might find that palliative care is a good option for them.

You can choose to receive palliative care at whatever point you feel is appropriate. If you are experiencing pain or discomfort that is reducing your quality of life, palliative care can help alleviate some of your sufferings.

You can decide to begin palliative care at any stage of a serious illness. This means that you can choose to start palliative care right away after you begin treatment or receive a diagnosis or wait until you feel you are ready.

Essentially, palliative care is an option for individuals who are still pursuing a cure for their disease but want to receive treatment to help them deal with pain and other discomforts. If an individual is no longer seeking a cure for their treatment, then they can be eligible for hospice care.

As an example, an individual might receive radiation treatment or chemotherapy for cancer and utilize palliative care to help manage the symptoms they’re experiencing. They may no longer need to use palliative care in the future if their symptoms subside.

What’s the Difference Between Palliative Care and Hospice Care?

Many people are more familiar with the term “hospice care” than they are with “palliative care.” While they do have some similarities, there are some notable differences that are worth understanding.

Hospice care is a form of end-of-life medical care. They help to provide physical and emotional support to individuals who have terminal illnesses. People who receive hospice care have a life expectancy of six months or less. An individual who is receiving hospice care is no longer receiving life-prolonging care or curative treatment.

Palliative care, on the other hand, can be undergone while you are still receiving life-prolonging or curative treatment. This form of care isn’t reserved for end-of-life care only — and does not necessitate that you are no longer searching for a cure.

Palliative Care Can Help to Improve You and Your Loved Ones’ Quality of Life

When you or a loved one faces a life-threatening or otherwise serious illness, there are many difficult medical and personal decisions that often have to be made. It is perfectly natural to feel confused and frightened with a diagnosis of a serious disease.

Palliative care exists in order to help lift some of this burden off of the patient and their families. While having a serious illness can seriously alter the lives of everyone involved, there are ways to make the whole process much more pleasant.

By helping relieve the symptoms of the patient, palliative care can provide physical comfort. Beyond that, this person-focused approach can also help to provide emotional, psychological, mental, practical, and spiritual support.

Now that you know the answer to “what is palliative care?” you can decide if it’s the right choice for you and your family.

Are you interested in receiving palliative care services for yourself or someone you love?

Contact us today to learn how EverHeart Hospice can help.

If you have more questions about end-of-life care or just need to talk, contact us below or call 800-417-7535 today. Our patient and compassionate team of medical professionals is standing by to help with your concerns.