What is Palliative Care?

People receive palliative care when curing their disease or condition is not their primary goal. Instead, palliative care focuses on quality of life. It can be given to anyone with a life-threatening illness. Usually, this person is also not seeking treatment for that illness, even if they still may survive their disease.

For example, palliative care be administered between bouts of chemotherapy treatments for cancer. Or, palliative care can support someone when their condition declines, but they are expected to return to their former condition. This could happen when a patient seeks care for a relapse of multiple sclerosis, which, for many with the condition, later pauses again. Lastly, palliative care may be a part of hospice care, which is for people in their last six months of life.

Palliative Improves Quality of Life

Considering palliative care for your parent is a good idea. The individual concerns of patients and their loved ones take the lead in this care. Instead of targeting your parent’s disease, palliative care targets their symptoms, with the intention of increasing their quality of life. So, whatever symptoms or needs you or your parent wants to find respite from, you can.

During palliative care, medications that were once meant to cure or control a disease are re-examined from a new perspective. Palliative care professionals might consider if the patient’s medication is still useful, if the benefits outweigh the side effects, and if are there are alternatives that might benefit the patient, either by comforting them or allowing them to be more present with their family.

Palliative care often addresses pain management, which palliative nurses and doctors specialize in. They will also focus on relieving a variety of other symptoms that can make patients very uncomfortable, including nausea, loss of appetite, shortness of breath, and more.

The key to symptom relief is close monitoring of symptoms and adjustment of dosages and strategies as time goes on. Palliative care professionals should be available to address your parent’s concerns or any changes they experience, at any time.

Beyond doctors and nurses, other professionals can be involved in palliative care, like dietitians, personal support workers, physiotherapists, and more. It all depends on what your parent needs.

For example, personal support workers can take care of the daily household tasks that the patient may struggle to complete, like doing laundry or cooking meals. Physiotherapists can help relieve pain, or improve the patient’s mobility so they may participate in the events or activities which matter to them. Dietitians can work to give patients more energy and strength in their last days, or simply re-ignite their taste-buds.

Of course, palliative care also addresses emotional needs and symptoms the patient might feel. This includes depression, confusion, anxiety, trouble sleeping, anger, and more. Those who face serious illness also face unique emotional challenges that palliative care specialists are ready to handle.

Depending on the need of your parent and your family, religious leaders, social workers, psychologists, and any kind of professional that might provide your parent emotional support, can be incorporated into their palliative care.

Palliative care is all about dignity and quality of life. At Aging Life Network, our years of experience have led us to believe that what people most need in times of crisis, especially as they age, is the special support that comes from professionals dedicated to those two ideals: dignity and quality of life. Please reach out to us if you’re considering palliative care for your parent, we can guide you.

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