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Palliative Care Consult: When To Consider, And How To Request Palliative Care

When you have an ailing loved one, you will do everything to ensure they receive the necessary care and treatment. You and your loved one can explore several care and treatment options. The first choice will be seeking curative care, which aims at ensuring your loved one’s successful treatment and recovery.

However, curative treatment alone may not be enough, especially if your loved one is suffering from a life-limiting illness or they are in the final stages of an illness.

The aggressive nature of some of the treatment options may worsen their condition, resulting in severe pain and loss of independence, and may even shorten their lives.

When curative treatment is pursued, palliative care is recommended. However, if your loved one is in the final moments of their life, hospice care can be recommended.

If you’re unsure about what care your loved one needs, or clueless about how to find a palliative team, you can opt for a palliative care consult to point you in the right direction.

a grandmother teaching her granddaughter how to care for flowers properly

What is a Palliative Care Consultation?

Palliative care is a different form of medical care that may go hand-in-hand with curative care, ensuring your loved one is comfortable and free from pain as they continue with their treatment. The best part is that your loved one can access palliative care even after they stop having curative care.

Palliative care aims at relieving your loved one’s pain, offering you and your family psychological support while ensuring you have relevant information regarding your loved one’s health condition. With the assistance of a palliative care team, you can make informed decisions regarding your loved one’s care.

If you have any questions or reservations, a palliative care consultant will address them. This can be a doctor, a social worker, or a palliative care provider who will explain everything you need to understand about palliative care and what it means for you and your loved one.

A palliative care consultant will review your loved one’s needs and answer any questions you or they might have. After this consultation, they will connect you and your loved one with a palliative care team to develop an ideal care plan to help you and your loved one cope with the symptoms and side effects associated with their illness.

The Importance of Palliative Care in Senior Health

You will realize that in most cases, medical care, especially curative care, mainly focuses on treating or reversing the effects of various medical conditions. Palliative care, on the other hand, specializes in providing holistic medical care for patients with life-limiting health conditions.

Palliative care focuses on the patients’ and their loved ones’ physical, psychological, spiritual, and emotional care.

Your loved one can receive palliative care and treatment while working to resolve their health concerns. The main goal of palliative care is to relieve your loved one of the burden that accompanies their illness, like side effects and painful treatment procedures.

You and your loved one may sometimes mistake end-of-life care for palliative care. However, this isn’t the case, as palliative care focuses on simply working with you and your loved one to improve the quality of their lives.

It doesn’t matter if your loved one’s medical condition is curable or not. They will receive palliative care, ensuring they continue with their treatment without pain and other stresses that accompany most curative treatment options.

a family spending quality time at the beach after a palliative consult

Benefits of Seeking a Palliative Care Consultation

As your loved one deals with their chronic illness, it’s crucial to seek palliative care consultation as it plays a key role in the success of your loved one’s care.

In palliative care, a consultant plays a key role as they support your loved one, family, and caregiver. Doing this ensures excellent care is provided to all involved.

During a palliative care consultation, a consultant will identify those activities that will enrich your loved ones’ lives and address any barriers to their care.

Understanding the Role of Palliative Care in Senior Health

Palliative care mainly focuses on a patient’s overall well-being, especially when battling a serious or life-limiting illness. This type of care also supports the patient’s family and caregivers.

Since palliative care focuses on individual needs, its approach is unique as the care team works on addressing individual needs.

a family looking out for information they got from a palliative care consult

Pain and Symptom Management

Palliative care plays a crucial role in managing pain in patients struggling with serious illnesses. This pain can be acute or chronic. Your loved one will also receive care to ease distressing symptoms like digestive issues, insomnia, and fatigue.

With palliative care, your loved one will be able to live a life that is pain-free, and as fulfilling as possible. However, to fully utilize palliative care, your loved one should do it as soon as possible, as the management of pain can prolong their lives.

Addressing Emotional Symptoms

Having a severe medical condition diagnosis and living with the condition can take a toll on a person. The emotional toll may lead to stress, anxiety, and even depression. A palliative care team will provide emotional support to your loved one during this difficult time and, at the same time, address any physical concerns they might have.

Additionally, a palliative care team will offer you and your loved one emotional support by ensuring you can have easy access to counseling and guidance, a support group you can rely on.

Improving The Quality of Life for Seniors

With the complex needs accompanying chronic illnesses in most seniors, a palliative care team will come in handy in improving your loved one’s quality of life. It will also help in relieving the burden of their symptoms.

Additionally, when you and your loved one work with a palliative care team, the team will prepare you on what to expect as the condition progresses. Relevant information is vital as it will help prepare you for the next stages of your loved ones’ illness.

Although palliative care specializes in making significant improvements in your loved one’s life, it also pays close attention to easing the stress associated with living with life-limiting health conditions. Less stress helps improve a patient’s morale, making the interaction between the patient and the palliative care team smooth.

a happy father spending time with his son in the kitchen after confirming he is on a cancer trial program

Coordination with Primary Medical Care Providers

A palliative care team will collaborate with other healthcare providers to ensure seamless coordination in your loved ones’ care. This team acts as the bridge connecting your loved one with different specialists, making it easy to access necessary treatments, therapies, and other support services.

Palliative Care for Patients with Serious Illnesses

While your loved one living with a severe illness will benefit immensely from palliative care, studies show that it’s important to discuss palliative care and end-of-life plans, especially if your loved one is living with a life-limiting illness.

Since palliative care focuses on an individual’s needs, it will differ from one person to the next.

Your loved ones’ care plan might involve some of the following palliative care goals:

  • Pain relief
  • Education and resources about their illness and what to expect as it progresses
  • Practical, physical, emotional, and spiritual support
  • Strategies to help your loved one cope with changes occurring due to their illness
  • Education and access to additional resources such as financial support and advance care planning

Differences Between Palliative and Hospice Care

You may hear these words being used interchangeably, and mistake palliative care for end-of-life or hospice care. However, palliative and hospice care differ significantly, although they have similarities.

It’s essential to understand that hospice care usually starts once the doctors stop treatment of a disease or when it’s clear that a patient’s death is imminent or they are nearing the end of their lives.

Palliative care, on the other hand, starts immediately after a doctor diagnoses a patient with a life-limiting health condition. When your loved one receives palliative care, it doesn’t mean that they are nearing their end. Instead, it helps them to adjust to the long-term and serious repercussions of their illness. This preparation helps improve the quality of your loved one’s life and even prolong their lives.

Some of the main differences in palliative and hospice care are

Palliative Care Hospice Care
Eligibility
  • A patient with a life-limiting health condition.
  • This type of care is ideal for patients at any stage of their illness.
A patient battling a chronic illness and their doctors determine their lifespan won’t exceed 6 months.
What to expect?
  • Pain management
  • Ensures you and your loved one have all the necessary information to make the right medical decisions
  • Provides physical, psychological, financial, emotional, and spiritual assistance
  • Helps in care coordination.
  • Symptom relief and management
  • Helps in making critical end-of-life decisions
  • Offer emotional, financial, and spiritual support to the patient
  • Assistance in care coordination
Does it include curative care and treatments? Yes, if your loved one wishes to No, to qualify for hospice care, your loved one has to stop curative treatment first
Does a patient continue taking life-prolonging medications? Yes, a patient can continue taking these medications if they wish to No, a patient must stop taking life-prolonging medication to qualify for hospice care
Where can a patient access these services?
  • Hospital
  • Hospice facility
  • Nursing home
  • Home
  • Assisted living homes
Duration The duration of care will mainly depend on your loved ones’ insurance coverage and the treatment they are receiving. This will solely depend on the patient, and if they meet their providers’ requirements on life expectancy

When to Consider a Palliative Care Consultation

Since your loved one can access palliative and curative care simultaneously, it’s essential to consider it as early as possible.

Your loved one will benefit from improved quality of life, pain management, and other challenges accompanying their illness. it’s crucial to involve palliative care early, especially after a serious illness diagnosis.

Signs and Symptoms for Approaching Palliative Care

You can seek palliative care when:

  • Your loved one is feeling overwhelmed or is in denial of their serious/terminal illness diagnosis,
  • You are feeling overwhelmed by your loved one’s diagnosis,
  • You don’t know what to do or where to start to assist your loved one,
  • You and your loved one need access to relevant information and resources,
  • You need to understand better your loved one’s medical condition,

An overwhelmed senior after a terminal illness diagnoses

 

How to Request a Palliative Care Consultation

Once a doctor diagnoses your loved one with a serious illness, it’s crucial to talk with them about palliative care. During this talk, ask your loved one’s doctor for a referral for palliative care services. Whether your loved one is at home, in a hospital, or in an assisted living facility, a palliative care team will help them wherever they are.

You can use some of the following tips when talking to your loved one’s doctor about palliative care:

  • Let your loved one’s doctor know you are thinking about palliative care.
  • Ask the doctor if you can access palliative care near your loved one’ area.
  • If you are with your loved one, let them explain or state what they expect in life to lead a meaningful lifestyle. This may include spending time with their family and friends, leading a pain-free life, or making decisions regarding their lives. Let them explain to the doctor what quality of life means to them.
  • Please talk with your loved one’s doctor about their personal, cultural, and spiritual values and practices that might significantly affect their treatment and care decisions.
  • Encourage your loved one to discuss with their doctor the treatments they are willing to take and those they do not wish to try.

a family spending time together after a consult palliative care

Conclusion

Palliative care consultation is key in determining if your loved one will benefit from palliative care. Once you decide to have palliative care for your loved one, you can be sure that the quality of their lives will improve significantly.

Palliative care will address any physical symptoms and provide mental, spiritual, and emotional support to you and your loved one. A palliative care team creates a nurturing and compassionate environment that ensures your loved one thrives.

Amy’s Eden recognizes the significance of palliative care in your loved one’s lives, and we are committed to delivering unique, patient-centered, and personalized care that will bring dignity and comfort and ensure your loved ones’ wishes are honored.

To learn more about our services for your loved ones’ care, contact us today, and we will be happy to assist.

 

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