What Is It?
Palliative care is a medical specialty focused on meeting the unique needs of patients who suffer from serious, chronic, life-threatening illnesses. Palliative care specialists provide expert treatment of symptom management such as pain, discomfort and stress that can occur with a serious illness. A palliative care team consists of a doctor, nurse and social work specializing in palliative care. Teams may also include massage therapists, pharmacists, chaplains and nutritionists. The palliative care team works with a patient’s physician and provides care along with whatever treatment the patient is already receiving (for instance, chemotherapy). Palliative care specialists are on call to answer any questions and concerns of patients and their families about treatment options, medical decisions and care.
What Is Important?
• Many patients need palliative care – As older adults live longer, many more people are living with serious and chronic illnesses and need relief from pain and symptoms to help maintain their quality of life. These illnesses can be complex and patients need help coordinating their care.
• Palliative care works – Palliative care helps patients get the best possible care when suffering from severe illness. It is most effective in relieving pain and distressing symptoms, increasing patient and family satisfaction with their care and creating smooth transitions between hospitals and other healthcare settings.
How Does Palliative Care Help Patients and Their Families?
• It makes patients feel better throughout illness by:
– Vigorously treating pain and symptoms such as nausea, fatigue, depression and anxiety
– Keeping patients as comfortable, active and independent as possible
– Benefitting patients at all stages of illness, while simultaneously receiving treatment or any other medical care
• It helps patients and families to navigate the medical system by:
– Assisting patients and families in making decisions about care and treatments, and then following through and ensuring that care is received
– Providing answers, assistance and emotional support to patients and families making difficult medical decisions
– Identifying services to support patients after leaving the hospital