For many individuals who have been diagnosed with a serious, long-lasting disease or with a life-threatening illness, palliative care can make your life — and the lives of those who care for you — much easier.
Palliative care specializes in the relief of pain, symptoms and stress of serious or chronic illness. It can improve the quality of life for patients and their families by providing comfort and support and is appropriate at any age or any stage of illness. The goal is not to cure but to provide as much comfort as possible.
Patients who use palliative care services have a range of diseases and respond differently to treatment options. An individualized plan is created to meet the needs of each patient and can be used in conjunction with aggressive treatment and assist in restoring functional capacity and achieving the best quality of life.
The plan of care can include physical, psychosocial and spiritual components and aims to address symptoms such as pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, depression, constipation, nausea, loss of appetite and difficulty sleeping. Alleviating or relieving these symptoms can help patients better tolerate medical treatments.
Palliative care is provided by a team of experts including physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, pharmacists, specialists and may also include a social worker and chaplain. They are specially trained and work together with the patient’s other physicians to provide an extra layer of support.
In partnership with the patient’s attending physician, palliative care teams provide:
- Treatment of pain and symptoms
- Navigation of the health care system
- Guidance with complex treatment choices
- Detailed practical information and assistance
- Integration of psychosocial and spiritual aspects of care
- Advanced care planning
- Assistance with Advanced Directives
- Assistance with medication management
Palliative care teams specialize in treating people suffering from the symptoms and stress of serious illnesses such as cancer, congestive heart failure (CHF), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), kidney disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and many more.
If you or a loved one is facing a serious illness, you may benefit from palliative care. Ask your health care professional for a palliative care consultation.
-Elizabeth Grady, D.O. is a hospice and palliative care physician with the University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Center. She can be reached at 410-787-4581.