What is Palliative Care?
If you have a loved one living with a serious disease like cancer, heart disease, lung disease, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis and ALS, you may be among the millions of American families who would benefit from palliative care.
Palliative care eases the everyday symptoms and side effects of serious illness, and can reduce emergency room visits and medical costs. Crucially, it can often be administered at home or in an outpatient clinic, enabling sick people to remain safely in the comfort of their home.
Because palliative care is a relatively new specialty, however, many families don’t know about it.
What is palliative care?
Palliative care is “comfort care” that treats the symptoms and side effects of an illness, rather than the illness itself. Palliative care can start at any stage, and often goes hand-in-hand with curative or life-prolonging treatment, which is what distinguishes palliative care from end-of-life hospice care.
Palliative care is managed by a team of specialists, typically a doctor, a nurse and a social worker. This team takes a holistic approach that includes your loved one’s quality of life and emotional wellbeing. As well as focusing on symptoms and pain, palliative teams are trained to help people manage issues like anxiety, depression, fatigue and difficulty sleeping.
Palliative care is effective. Studies indicate that patients who receive it are less likely to be hospitalized for emergencies, more likely to feel satisfied with their care, and more likely in cases of terminal illness to spend their final months at home.
Living with a serious illness at home
Increasingly—and especially since the pandemic—people are making the choice to face serious illnesses or declining health in the familiar environment of home. While palliative care makes this easier, it isn’t always enough, especially for family caregivers.
Too often, the demands of caregiving become too much to handle. As a family caregiver, it’s easy to become overwhelmed or burned out, or experience a diminished relationship with your loved one due to the stresses of caregiving.
At this point—or ideally before—families should seek out specialized in-home care, such as HomeWell’s Palliative Care Support program. Our program offers a personalized schedule of in-home care and companionship that complements your loved one’s palliative or hospice care plan and helps relieve you from the demands of everyday caregiving.
Palliative Care Support is designed to support both your loved one and your family, with caregivers who can help minimize pain and other symptoms, assist with personal care to minimize stress, and provide medication reminders for pain management. Our team is also there to support you when you feel overwhelmed, offering strength, comfort, and a shoulder to lean on.
If you choose to explore in-home palliative care support, look for an agency with a Care Manager who can liaise with your loved one’s palliative or hospice team. Ask about how they choose your family’s caregivers, as a good match is essential for true companionship and reassurance.
Getting started with palliative care
If you’re unfamiliar with palliative care, ask your doctor or social worker about palliative care services in your area and how to get them.
You can find more information at Get Palliative Care, WebMD and the Center to Advance Palliative Care.
To find out more about in-home support, visit HomeWell’s Palliative Care Support program.
As with our other special programs, which include the SureStep fall prevention program, the GoHomeWell post-hospital program and the wellbeing-focused Life Enrichment Activities Program, we can provide Palliative Care Support wherever your loved one calls home, be it your family home or their assisted living community.