One of the more common misconceptions about palliative care is that it’s only available to hospice patients, but residents of Flintridge and elsewhere should know that this isn’t quite true and that there’s much more involved in this type of care.
At Accredited Home Care, we’re always happy to tell clients and their families more info about palliative care options, and many are pleasantly surprised to learn two things. First, this care isn’t just for hospice patients or those facing the end of their life in the next few months from a terminal condition. And second, palliative care can actually start much earlier, including when someone is still receiving traditional care and is interested in knowing if there are other options.
For those unfamiliar with palliative care, it’s an option where the goal is to improve a patient’s quality of life above all else. For instance, in a palliative care situation, a patient may be sent home from the hospital and receive home health care.
This approach will reduce many of the stresses that may be felt in staying in a hospital while doctors try different methods that may or may not prolong their life or cure whatever condition they have.
They’ll enjoy being in their own bed in their own home surrounded by their own possessions, rather than a noisy, busy hospital. They may even see an improvement in their health and outlook once they have time and energy available to heal.
Another example of palliative care is a patient deciding against risky trials or certain powerful medications that can damage the body but may not be effective, and instead, working with their provider for medication that provides pain relief and provides the opportunity for them to have more quality time with friends and family.
Hospice care is another example of a type of palliative care, where a client may receive some degree of skilled medical and nursing support plus general comfort at the end of their life.
Even if you like the concept of palliative care, some people aren’t quite sure how or when to start it or at least ask about it. The general answer to this is “it depends.”
Some medical experts suggest that this type of care could potentially begin when someone is diagnosed with a serious health condition, even if it’s not something terminal. This could be cancer, heart disease, COPD, dementia, Parkinson’s disease or other chronic, sometimes progressive conditions.
With cancer, for instance, someone can be offered surgery, chemo, radiation or other treatment options or combinations of some of these that can be painful and temporarily or permanently limit their lives.
Accepting or suggesting palliative care at this point doesn’t mean they’ll entirely and absolutely ignore any suggested treatment, but it can mean that any treatment that’s accepted will keep “quality of life” as a priority.
When the request is officially made to their provider, it can activate a palliative care team that can include at least one provider, nurses, maybe even social workers, all who will be involved in developing a customized palliative care plan.
Their current provider may still be involved in their care, especially if they have a good relationship with him or her but other medical personnel will now also be part of the process.
This multidisciplinary team will be available to discuss someone’s type of care and available services in their respective communities. This can be everything from home health care nurses and aides to support from the Department of Veterans Affairs offices or clinics.
The individualized plan can also shift as someone’s health or circumstances change. Maybe they’re fine living independently with occasional home health visits. Maybe a caregiver is needed on an occasional or regular basis. Or as their health condition changes, they may need to consider other housing options, but still keeping quality of life in mind.
In some cases, a patient may need to make the initial request to learn more; some providers are still not quite familiar with the concept of palliative care, especially earlier in a patient’s process, or may be interested in trying different treatment methods so they may not initially bring up this option.
That’s why this month is a good opportunity for everyone to learn more about palliative care options, especially if it’s available for extended periods of time.
November is Long Term Care Awareness Month, when people can find out more about what type of settings are available, whether it’s home health, assisted living or even a rehabilitation center.
It’s important to have some knowledge of these types of facilities, the earlier the better. This minimizes the chances of having to move somewhere in a hurry if someone’s circumstances change.
Products like long term care insurance can also help with some of the costs of moving or relocating, whether someone is receiving palliative care or traditional care.