When you have a loved one living with cancer, it is important to know if palliative care is right for them and when they need it.
Palliative care is a type of specialized medical care that provides pain relief and helps in the management of your loved ones’ cancer symptoms. It can also help your loved one cope with the side effects of cancer treatment. Your loved one is eligible to access palliative care whether their condition is curable or not.
A palliative care team aims at improving your loved one’s quality of life and also ensuring they are comfortable even as they battle cancer. This team consists of highly skilled personnel, including doctors, social workers, nurses, volunteers, chaplains, and other specialists.
If you are wondering about palliative care and what you’ve heard about it, don’t be too concerned, as some of them are just misconceptions and myths. These misconceptions can prevent you and your loved ones from accessing and receiving palliative care.
Your loved one can access palliative care at any point of their cancer illness, not just at the final stages. Additionally, palliative care covers you and your loved one’s well-being, not just the physical aspect of care.
Typically most doctors will focus on the treatment aspect of an illness due to their training. With a palliative care team, your loved one will access emotional, mental as well as physical support. The approach a palliative care team uses ensures all your loved one’s needs are covered.
Doctors and other health professionals may recommend palliative care as part of a care plan for a cancer patient. Understand that palliative care doesn’t treat cancer itself, but your loved one can access this type of care during their journey battling cancer.
In most cases, a doctor will offer palliative care as soon as they diagnose your loved one with cancer. A cancer patient can receive palliative care at the same time they are receiving their cancer treatment, and they can continue with it even after completing their treatment.
Palliative care aims at preventing and treating cancer symptoms as soon as they arise.
Palliative care team members will look at your loved one’s cancer experience and devise a plan of action that will aid them in ensuring improvements in your loved one’s quality of life.
Some of the palliative care services that will benefit your loved one include:
A palliative care team will perform a total pain assessment on your loved one. A doctor or a nurse will ask your loved one to rank their pain on a scale of between 0 and 10, with 0 being mild pain and 10 being the worst kind of pain your loved one can experience.
A palliative care team will manage your loved one’s pain by following these three steps:
- Managing or treating pain right away as a delay could worsen the pain.
- Ensuring the patient is aware of the rate of addiction to pain medication. Your loved one should know that with proper pain relief medication management, the possibility of addiction is rarely an issue, as healthcare providers offer close supervision.
- If your loved one suspects they are becoming addicted to pain relief medication, they should alert their healthcare providers.
Your loved one must work with their palliative care team to explore the available pain relief options.
Work with your loved one and their healthcare providers to find the right approach that will ensure your loved one is comfortable and free from pain as they undergo their cancer treatment.
One of the goals of palliative care is to improve the quality of life of a cancer patient and that of their family. Palliative care prevents the stress and challenges that accompany cancer diagnosis and treatment. It does this by the following methods:
- Early identification of cancer symptoms and side effects
- Accurate assessment of cancer symptoms
- Pain relief
- Appropriate cancer treatment
- Addressing other issues arising due to cancer, whether they are physical, mental, emotional, physiological, psychosocial, or even spiritual.
Emotional and psychological support is essential at every stage of cancer. You and your loved one must receive emotional and psychological care. Your loved one will access psychological support from their nurses and other healthcare professionals.
Psychological care also focuses on the emotional and psychological well-being of the caregivers caring for your loved one.
Palliative care, through its emotional and psychological support, ensures that you and your loved one maintain their self-esteem and dignity. It also helps your loved one adapt to their illness and manage their relationships.
Sometimes, after a cancer diagnosis, you and your loved one may undergo several emotional responses. These responses may include:
- Low self-esteem
A cancer diagnosis may impact the relationship between your loved ones and their close family and friends. If you are a partner, a sibling, or a child, the role of caregiver may not come to you easily and can even overwhelm you.
A life-limiting illness like cancer can sometimes overwhelm even professional caregivers. You may wish for things to return to how they were before the illness, be a spouse, child, sister, or brother, rather than being a full-time family caregiver.
However, with palliative care, you don’t have to worry as the palliative team aims at addressing all your issues, ensuring your loved one is comfortable while continuing with their cancer treatment.
Psychological care ensures your loved one understands their illness, what to expect as the illness progresses, the treatment options available, and the drawbacks of each option. This helps you make informed decisions.
Spiritual care and support is an essential part of palliative care. Having a cancer diagnosis often leads to a person viewing their lives in a new light, and this may lead to changes in their spiritual lives.
Members of a palliative care team can help your loved one explore their spiritual needs. Spiritual care and support provide a safe environment where your loved ones’ culture and beliefs are respected.
Care coordination and assistance with practical needs involves the act of deliberately organizing your loved ones’ care activities and sharing relevant information among all the stakeholders. By doing this, the palliative care team ensures your loved one accesses effective and excellent care at all times.
Coordination of care ensures that your loved one’s preferences and needs are known and communicated to the right personnel promptly. This information helps the palliative team in providing safe and effective care.
Sometimes, cancer patients who are unfamiliar with palliative care may wonder if it’s ideal for them. They may tell you they haven’t met any other cancer patient receiving palliative care and then ask you if they need it. You can discuss palliative care with their oncologist before deciding on the best option for palliative care for them.
When deciding on the best palliative care option for your loved one, you need to consult with a specialist and find the ideal option. Some of the available palliative care options include the following:
When your loved one receives palliative care in a hospital setting, doctors, nurses, and other healthcare aides will care for them. Most hospitals have a palliative care team in the wards to ensure your loved one receives care where they are.
A palliative care team will work together with other hospital staff to provide the best care to their cancer patients.
Sometimes, you may decide to care for your loved one from the comfort of their home even after a cancer diagnosis. You will need to prepare psychologically, as this may place a strain on your relationship with your loved one.
When you decide to care for your loved one at home, you will need to communicate with their oncologist. You will also have to liaise with other palliative care members as they play a crucial role in helping you deal with the changing dynamics between you and your loved one.
Although your loved one will benefit immensely from staying at home while still receiving cancer treatment, it is important to follow all the guidelines laid down by their palliative care team.
Having a cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming for you and your loved one. But you don’t have to be alone during this trying time.
An outpatient palliative care service will help your loved one by providing an extra layer of support. This support is tailored to meet your loved one unique needs and ensure they lead their lives as normally as possible.
Outpatient palliative care services provide cancer patients with services from the comfort of their homes or workplace. The main focus of these services is to help your loved one achieve their goals and help them understand their health condition.
Integrating palliative care with ongoing cancer treatment is one way of ensuring a patient’s quick recovery. When you integrate fundamental symptoms and pain relief management into a cancer treatment regime, your loved one will recover quickly.
Cancer pain is intolerable, but when a palliative care team comes into the picture, it will help your loved one with pain relief and management. Palliative care will help you and your loved one cope with cancer and prepare you for what to expect. Once you are prepared, you will be able to face the future and be in a position to assist your loved one.
The palliative care team plays a crucial role in cancer treatment as it works together to provide your loved one with pain relief from cancer treatments, symptoms, and other side effects. This team will offer your loved one the necessary support to allow them to live their lives well.
Additionally, a palliative care team will also help you and other family members with cancer resources. A palliative care team is made up of several healthcare professionals, each playing a different role. These health professionals will coordinate your loved one’s care.
A multidisciplinary palliative care team comprises one patient, several health professionals, volunteers, and caregivers. The role of the multidisciplinary team is to care, communicate, and collaborate, ensuring your loved one receives quality care.
A multidisciplinary team is flexible to accommodate a patient’s needs as they evolve with changes in the health condition. This team has the mandate of providing your loved one with comprehensive care when they need it.
A palliative care team will help you and your loved one with support for end-of-life planning and decision-making. Sometimes, cancer can take a toll on your loved one’s life, and you have no choice but to accept it. A multidisciplinary team will help you accept the situation and plan for a future without your loved one.
This can be one of the most difficult decisions you can make as a family, but with the support of a palliative care team, you can explore different services that will help you and your loved one plan for their end of life. Planning for an end of life ensures you know your loved one’s final wishes and gives them comfort knowing you will honor them, even in their absence.
Planning for the end of life with your loved one doesn’t necessarily have to be a sad affair; you can make it a positive experience where you get an opportunity to reflect on the important things to your loved one and make arrangements that suit them together.
Palliative care cancer helps patients and their loved ones with resources and support, which is essential to making their lives comfortable. These resources offer support and prepare all involved with what to expect during cancer treatments.
Each person takes a cancer diagnosis differently; some may be in denial, grief, anger, hopelessness, and anxiety. A palliative care team ensures that a cancer patient and their family come to terms with their new reality.
Some of the local and national organizations providing palliative care resources include:
- American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine – this organization dedicates its energy to palliative medicine and hospice advancements.
- Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC) – this is a network of healthcare providers providing training, tools, connections for clinicians caring for cancer and other chronic illnesses, and technical assistance.
- The Conversation Project is an organization that helps patients talk about their end-of-life wishes.
- End-of-Life Nursing Education Consortium – this is a national initiative that is dedicated to training nurses on how to provide excellent palliative care.
- ElderCare Locator is a public service by the United States Administration that helps older people by connecting them with various services.
- ElderCare – This initiative provides information on health, housing, finances, aging, and other issues relating to caregivers, family members, professional consultants, and healthcare providers.
- GetPalliativeCare – this website offers resources on palliative care to both patients and their caregivers.
- FamilyCaregiverAlliance – as a family caregiver, you will benefit from this resource as it offers information on family caregivers.
- National Cancer Institute – you can access accurate and credible cancer information here.
Joining a support group is essential as it brings people together who are facing the same challenges. Having your loved one join a support group will allow them to find people who will share their personal stories, experiences, and coping strategies.
You will feel encouraged when you meet people who have overcome what you and your loved one are going through.
In most cases, a cancer-related support group will fill a gap between treatment and emotional and mental support. Sometimes, your loved one’s relationship with their doctors and nurses may never offer them the emotional support they require.
Additionally, their family may not truly understand what they are going through, but with a support group, they may feel right at home. They will interact with individuals who are going through what they are going through and understand where they are coming from.
You can also help your loved one enroll in clinical trials and innovative cancer treatment options. Most people have misconceptions when it comes to clinical trials, thinking they will be like guinea pigs — being poked right, left, and center.
However, this is not the case; a team of qualified doctors will surround your loved one. To better understand clinical trials, you can go through the following benefits, as they will help shine a light on what they involve.
When your loved one participates in a clinical trial, one thing you are sure of is the fact that their palliative care providers will closely monitor them than the other cancer patients. Clinical trials mostly involve research that requires several imaging tests and closer monitoring.
Some of the most innovative and newest cancer treatments are only available to participants in clinical trials. One thing you should know is that cancer treatment is rapidly evolving, and extensive research on new treatment options may benefit your loved one.
When your loved one participates in clinical trials, they get an opportunity to pave the way for future cancer discoveries.
One thing to note is that some life-saving therapies are offered today because someone participated in past trials.
Cancer treatment can be quite expensive, and your loved one may end up needing a list of available financial assistance resources. What you need to note is whether they are eligible and qualify for assistance from the organization offering financial support.
Some state and federal programs are offering financial assistance to both cancer patients and their families. They include the following:
- United States Department of Health and Human Services
- The Administration on Aging
- Food stamps
- Medicare and Medicaid services
- National Social Security Administration
- Medicine assistance programs
- Needy Meds
- Salvation Army
- Catholic charities
- United way
- Good days
- HealthWell Foundation
- Leukemia and Lymphoma (cancer) Society copay programs
- The American Cancer Society
Palliative care for cancer patients is vital as it provides symptom relief, and emotional and mental support for patients and their families. The palliative care team will assess a cancer patient’s illness and devise a plan of action that will help manage their symptoms.
If you are caring for a cancer patient at home and you want to take a break, you can contact us and have our compassionate caregivers be your extra pair of hands.
At Amy’s Eden, we want what’s best for you and your loved one. We will work with your loved one’s palliative care team to ensure your loved one receives the best care while you take a break and recharge. Kindly contact us right away for any assistance, and we will be happy to help.