What is Palliative Care?
Have you ever felt like our culture’s approach to health care is too narrow? Study after study has demonstrated that many of the health problems people in our country face aren’t purely about biology or genetics – they’re often tied to more emotional causes like stress or depression.
With a growing body of evidence showing that treating physical ailments is only a partial solution, many healthcare professionals are beginning to embrace the idea of making sure patients get a fuller treatment plan. Palliative care aims to make sure emotional components are addressed as well as physical ones in the care that patients of serious illnesses receive.
The Mayo Clinic defines palliative care as offering “pain and symptom management and emotional and spiritual support when you face a chronic, debilitating or life-threatening illness.”
It’s a healthcare program designed to ensure that all of a patient’s needs are met when going through the many difficulties that arise with a serious illness.
What Palliative Care Looks Like in Practice
In most healthcare cases, your care likely starts and stops with the doctors and other hospital staff that treat you. Palliative care involves a team approach. You’d still work with your doctors and nurses, but added to the mix would be any other relevant specialists that can help, such as therapists, nutritionists, social workers, and even clergy members.
Your doctors are there to help you determine what treatment you need, while your team is there to help you get through the treatment, as well as the day-to-day. They can help recognize signs of depression and swoop in to help you deal with them in healthy ways. They can help you with techniques for dealing with chronic pain, like meditation or the appropriate exercises. They can help with all that in between stuff that people suffering from serious illnesses deal with that doctors aren’t equipped to handle.
How Can I Pursue Palliative Care?
If palliative care sounds like something you or a loved one could use, then the first step is to talk to your doctor. Most doctors are familiar with palliative care and will be able to offer you a referral to receive palliative care in your area. Most health insurance plans actually cover palliative care, so in most cases getting a referral from your doctor will mean it comes at minimal cost to you.
The next step is to find your palliative care team. Your doctor may have a good recommendation or be able to refer you to someone who does. You can also check the provider directory at GetPallativeCare.org to see what’s available in your area. Your team will help you better gauge your specific needs and how they can best help you. From there, you’ll have to do your part to take their advice and work with your family to get through the toughest stretches of the illness.
Palliative care doesn’t work miracles. Both the patient and their family will still have moments of stress, anger, or despair and will have to do the work to move past them. What it can provide is the help of professionals trained in techniques and practices that address those feelings. The end result can be significant and leave families feeling much more in control of a difficult situation.