Perhaps you’ve heard the term “palliative care” but weren’t sure what it meant. Palliative care (pronounced pal-lee-uh-tiv) is specialized medical care for people with chronic illnesses, focusing on providing patients with relief from the symptoms, pain and stress of a chronic illness regardless of the diagnosis. The overall goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family.
Who needs palliative care?
Many people who have a chronic illness could benefit greatly from palliative care, including adults and children living with illnesses such as:
- Heart disease (including congestive heart failure)
- Lung disease (such as COPD, cystic fibrosis, emphysema)
- Kidney disease/failure
- Neurological diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, ALS, dementia/Alzheimer’s, stroke effects, and more
A difference between hospice and palliative care is that hospice is palliative care for people with a terminal illness who have 6 months or less to live, and who have chosen not to aggressively fight their disease or seek a cure. Palliative care patients are seen at any stage of their disease, regardless of their treatment choices.
When do you start palliative care?
While every case is unique, it may be time to consider palliative care for yourself or a loved one when symptoms from a condition or illness begin to affect quality of life.
Examples may include:
- Suffering from pain, anxiety, depression, loss of appetite, fatigue, shortness of breath, constipation, nausea or other symptoms
- Need help understanding your situation and coordinating your care
- Have had three or more hospitalizations in the last year
- Have frequent emergency room visits
- Need help with advance care planning, decision-making or emotional or spiritual support
At Deaconess we strive to provide our patients and families with appropriate care at all stages of their lives, no matter where they are in the treatment process or stage of care. We want to help patients and families live their best lives.
Is palliative care the same as hospice?
No. Palliative care helps manage symptoms related to both the illness and side effects of treatments. This often includes disease education, coordinating care with other providers, and addressing/treating distressing symptoms. Patients can still be receiving treatment aimed at prolonging life or curing a disease. Hospice care also provides symptom management; however, patients under hospice care don’t receive care and treatment intended to prolong life.
The overall benefits of palliative care are numerous.
- Palliative care treats the whole person by offering medical, emotional, spiritual and social support.
- Palliative care makes patients feel better throughout their illness by treating pain and symptoms such as shortness of breath, loss of appetite, fatigue, constipation and difficulty sleeping.
- Palliative care helps patients and families understand the illness and choices for care.
- Palliative care offers guidance and support with difficult medical decisions.
- Palliative care helps with communication with medical staff.
- Palliative care eases transitions between health care settings.
How and where do you get palliative care?
Patients or families interested in palliative care should talk to their doctor, nurse or social worker. Your doctor may consult our palliative care team to discuss how we can help with your care. You can contact Deaconess Palliative Care directly with questions, find out if you qualify for services and get help with a referral.
Because our care complements the care you receive from other physicians, we provide consultation in various locations and settings.
Our services are available for patients who are in the hospital at both Deaconess Gateway and Midtown campuses. We also provide consults in patient homes and nursing homes, even while patients may be receiving home health/rehab services.
Medicare and insurance plans cover palliative care treatment as part of a hospital stay. Medicare, Medicaid and some insurance plans will cover palliative care in the home setting.
The Outpatient Palliative Care service area includes Gibson, Posey, Vanderburgh and Warrick counties in Indiana. To receive outpatient services, a patient must have a primary care doctor and a referral for palliative care (again, we can help coordinate the referral).
Now we want to share some websites that we know to be helpful for patients and families.
www.getpalliativecare.org is very informative about palliative care, with more information about specific care, and resources including blog articles, videos and more.
Patients with cancer may be interested in how palliative care can improve quality and outcomes for cancer patients. https://www.cancer.gov/news-events/cancer-currents-blog/2016/palliative-care-quality
COPD patients can learn more about how palliative care can help with their symptoms and comfort. https://copd.net/living/palliative-care/
Caregivers of dementia patients can learn more about dementia-specific palliative care. http://dementiamanagementstrategy.com/Pages/Carer_Resources/Palliative_Care.aspx
Palliative care helps patients and families with conversations about end-of-life care as well as completing forms related to living wills, advance directives, health care representatives and more. Here’s a helpful video about Indiana’s POST (physician order for scope of treatment). http://www.indianapost.org/
Deaconess Palliative Care
• Outpatient: 812-450-3241
• Inpatient: 812-450-3201
• Fax: 812-450-3395