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Understanding When to Consider Palliative Care

July 6, 2021
Patient And Physician Discuss Palliative Care

Deciding how to proceed after diagnosis with a serious illness is difficult. Symptoms, stress, worries, and increasing medical appointments can leave you feeling overwhelmed. In these situations, palliative care can provide the support patients and loved ones need to navigate serious disease, limiting conditions, and terminal illness. Is it time for you or a loved one to speak to a doctor about palliative care? Here, Richmond University Medical Center explains when palliative care is the right choice.

After Diagnosis with a Serious Condition

Unlike hospice, which is often recommended for individuals with a prognosis of six months or less to live, palliative care may be offered at any stage of illness. This includes at the time of diagnosis if your physician believes the services provided would be useful to you. Palliative care is often recommended for conditions such as:

  • Cancer
  • Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and other cognitive challenges
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • Heart, kidney, or liver disease
  • Heart failure
  • Stroke
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • And more

The symptoms associated with these conditions often cause mobility limitations, pain, fatigue, and other issues that are difficult to manage without outside support. As such, palliative care can reduce stress and improve the quality of life for patients and loved ones alike.

When the Challenges of Disease Management Become Overwhelming

Illness is especially difficult for those who are fiercely independent. It may be hard to ask for help, and even identifying resources requires time and energy you may not have. Staying on top of appointments, scheduled treatments, and other needs in addition to everyday activities can also be draining. If you or a loved one has begun to feel overwhelmed, depressed, or hopeless due to a serious illness, palliative care can restore peace of mind and help alleviate these emotions.

While palliative care emphasizes reducing pain and resolving symptoms, it also includes a host of supportive services to make life easier. These often include:

  • Care coordination to keep the primary care physician and other care team members on the same page
  • In-home and facility care management to provide at-home caregivers or plan for hospital or other in-patient treatment
  • Spiritual support, including access to religious services and faith-based guidance
  • Counseling for behavioral health issues
  • Assistance with the preparation of advance directives, Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders, and other medical documentation
  • Support for funeral arrangements and other end-of-life planning
  • Referrals for social services and other community resources to support those living with serious illnesses

Thanks to a diverse team of palliative care specialists, patients can count on having well-rounded support that is always available as needs evolve.

When Treatments Increase Symptoms

One of the top differences between palliative care and hospice is that palliative care patients often choose to begin or continue curative or life-prolonging treatments. While this type of care can put you on the path toward recovery, it can also be very hard on the body and the mind, causing symptoms such as:

  • Pain
  • Depression
  • Fatigue and/or difficulty sleeping
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Bladder and bowel control problems
  • Cognitive challenges
  • Weakness
  • And more

Just as palliative care can help manage the symptoms of disease, so can it assist patients with the challenges of treatment. Whether these difficulties will be short-term or last for life, palliative care services life-extending care more comfortable for many patients.

Learn More about Palliative Care

If you have questions about palliative care, contact Richmond University Medical Center today. Our dedicated, compassionate team is standing by to answer your questions and help determine the best care for you or a loved one. For more information, please call 718-818-4104.