If you’re not quite familiar with the term “palliative care,” that’s OK. It’s a fairly new concept in medicine but is becoming an interesting option to residents of Coronado and elsewhere who may not be satisfied with the current treatment regimen.
Essentially, palliative care is a medical approach that emphasizes a prime focus on a patient’s quality of life vs. approaches and statements like “we need to pull out all the stops to make you better” or “let’s try a long-shot, experimental treatment method but it may not work.”
The team at Accredited Home Care has worked with patients receiving traditional care and those receiving palliative care. We know that it doesn’t mean giving up, but it also can make a difference in how a person perceives and approaches their health condition and possible outcomes.
For instance, one example of palliative care is sending a patient home from the hospital to recover there, rather than staying for a prolonged amount of time in a noisy, unfamiliar place where there are regular and sometimes futile tests. A patient may have a better attitude and may even feel better if they can try to recover at home, surrounded by friends, family, and familiar furnishings.
Palliative care can also include end of life and hospice care, where people receive physical, mental, and emotional support in their final days if they’re dealing with a terminal condition. Providers and hospice staff focusing on palliative care can work with patients on ways to make their remaining time valuable, whether it’s massage therapy or medication management that can help reduce their pain but still keep them lucid.
As more providers begin to learn about and offer palliative care services, it is becoming more of a recognized alternative to traditional care. If a provider isn’t that familiar with palliative care, a patient may need to ask to speak to someone about palliative care options. This question may come up when someone is in the middle of difficult cancer treatment with an unknown outcome like chemotherapy, radiation, or both. Switching to palliative care may end the treatment and increase the risk of cancer returning but will spare the patient days, weeks, or months of pain and other difficulties associated with the treatment, especially if their provider isn’t sure of the effectiveness of chemo or radiation.
In some cases, someone’s provider may still be involved in care. At other times, a palliative team may take over patient management. Depending on the community or organization, a palliative care team can include doctors, nurses, therapists, and other aides. It could even include social workers who can work with patients and families on non-medical details such as financial paperwork or other important end-of-life considerations.
Some patients undergoing palliative care are able to recover and recuperate. Sometimes, just undergoing this type of care without the stress of traditional medicine and traditional expectations can create a more helpful situation for recovery.
At the same time, however, palliative care for someone fighting cancer shouldn’t be thought of as a cure – it’s more of a different approach to management that may or may not have a different outcome than traditional care and traditional cancer treatment methods.
But the approach to quality of life is part of its appeal rather than the more invasive treatments, such as large amounts of chemicals and radiation.
Plenty of resources
For those interested in learning more about palliative care, there’s extra attention to the topic in October. World Hospice and Palliative Care Day was celebrated Oct. 10.
It’s considered an annual observance, celebration, and day of action to raise awareness of hospice programs and palliative care programs around the world. Every community has different types of care programs, so it’s fun and useful to bring people from different areas together to talk about resources, activities, and education.
One goal of the annual effort is to make people aware of what could be offered in their area to benefit residents and for people with programs already in place to share some of their successes. This can include programs that help patients mentally, physically, socially, practically, and even spiritually.
The celebration is organized by a committee of the Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance, a non-government organization that includes hospice and palliative care programs around the planet, including various national and regional organizations.
Its goal is to promote and support hospice efforts and let people who are part of these worlds share what services work, what can be improved, and what needs are still out there.
Even though the date of the 2020 event has passed, there’s plenty of opportunities for anyone to get involved in general or to plan future Days. World Hospice Day takes place on the second Saturday of each October. There’s also a celebration called Voices of Hospice that takes place every other year and includes a series of concerts.