Palliative Care

Palliative Care

Palliative Care
Palliative (comfort) care is provided by a team of doctors, nurses, social workers and chaplains who work together to provide relief from the symptoms, pain and stresses of serious illness for patients and their families.

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    A answered
    At the time cancer is diagnosed and during treatment, palliative care may include: 
    • Aggressive treatment of adverse effects related to cancer treatment
    • Relief of pain, nausea, and other physical symptoms
    • Help with practical concerns including help with transportation, finding caregivers, or insurance matters
    • Assistance with legal matters relating to advance directives (written documents that detail your wishes for health care in the event you are unable to express them)
    • Planning for rehabilitation services such as physical or occupational therapy
    • Emotional support
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    Palliative care is specialized medical care for people with serious illnesses. It focuses on providing people with relief from the symptoms, pain and stress of a serious illness -- whatever the diagnosis. The goal is to improve quality of life for both the person who is ill and the family. Palliative care can help you do the following: 
    • manage your symptoms and treat sources of discomfort for any reason
    • maintain or improve your quality of life
    • achieve emotional, mental, and/or spiritual well-being
    • communicate with the care team about how best to care for you
    • navigate making difficult medical decisions
    • be more proactive in getting the type of care you seek
    • handle other practical matters related to your illness such as finding resources for care or planning ahead
    • support your family or those caring for you to help them maintain health and wellness

    Palliative care is provided by a team of doctors, nurses, professional healthcare chaplains, and other specialists who work together with a person's other doctors to provide an extra layer of support. It is appropriate at any age and at any stage in a serious illness and can be provided along with curative treatment.

    Palliative treatments can be given any time there is a difficult symptom to deal with. Doctors will always attempt to cure and control illness. In other words, curative care is provided no matter what. In the past, doctors used palliative care only after getting to the point where they would have to announce, “there is nothing more we can do.” However, healthcare has improved and now palliative treatment can be offered along with curative treatments to help get through the difficult symptoms.

    Eligibility and appropriateness for palliative care is based on need and not prognosis. It is appropriate for people pursuing cure (for example, head and neck cancer or acute myeloid leukemia); living with long-term chronic but debilitating illness like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), dementia or congestive heart failure; and approaching the end of life as a result of a progressive disease. People can be receiving both curative chemotherapy and palliative care.

    The essence of palliative care is understanding who the person is and what matters most to that person. This -- the search for meaning -- is also the essence of spiritual care.
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    A Family Medicine, answered on behalf of
    Despite advances of modern medicine, there are countless diseases and conditions which cannot be cured, but only "managed" and treated to reduce symptoms and patient discomfort. Many diseases cause chronic pain and suffering, some of which are terminal and for which palliative care is absolutely vital and essential. Even where cure is impossible, much can be done to ease the suffering of patients.
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    How Can Palliative Care Help My Loved One?
    In this interview, David Buxton, MD, a physician from Johnston-Willis Hospital, examines the numerous ways that palliative care can help patients and families.
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    What Are the Benefits of Palliative Care?
    David Buxton, MD, a physician from Johnston-Willis Hospital, explains how palliative care can ease the burden of symptoms and improve quality of life, and shares promising results from a research study.
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    How May Palliative Care Be Helpful After Cancer Treatments?
    David Buxton, MD, a physician from Johnston-Willis Hospital, explains how palliative care can help patients deal with the complicated emotions that many patients face during cancer remission.
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    A Geriatric Medicine, answered on behalf of
    Social workers are a valuable source for information on hospital and community resources. Working with your care team, a social worker can offer guidance on entitlements and advance directives, as well as on managing stress associated with caring for family members. They can also refer to and coordinate additional support services.
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    A Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease), answered on behalf of
    Comfort care is term for care given to improve the quality of life of patients who have a serious or life-threatening disease. The goal of comfort care is to prevent or treat as early as possible the symptoms of a disease, side effects caused by treatment of a disease, and psychological, social, and spiritual problems related to a disease or its treatment. Also called supportive care and symptom management.
    This answer is based upon source information from the National Cancer Institute.
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    What Kinds of Services Can a Palliative-Care Team Provide?
    David Buxton, MD, a physician from Johnston-Willis Hospital, lists some of the services his team provides, from managing symptoms to helping with the logistics of returning home after a hospital stay.
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    There are a few practical steps you can take to prepare for palliative care.
    • Complete an advance healthcare directive, a legal document in which you make your medical wishes known, and identify a surrogate decision maker, also called an agent, to help communicate your medical wishes.
    • Discuss your medical wishes with this person and other close family and friends, as well as your doctor.
    • Keep copies of your advance directive at home and with your agent, doctor and local hospital.
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