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Palliative Medicine: 4 Must-Knows to Help Your Senior Enjoy a Dignifying Life

Our beloved seniors are examples of how to face the good and the bad. They strive to live with dignity, remaining true to their values throughout their time with us, and showing us how to face difficulties with a smile and the will to live life to its fullest.

But aging brings with it inevitable health complexities that require a thoughtful and compassionate approach to care for your loved one. This is where palliative medicine becomes the alternative that can give your senior the empowerment to face illness and extend enjoyable living.

Palliative medicine or palliative care is a compassionate approach to healthcare for the elderly dealing with disease in their late stages of life. It acknowledges the intrinsic worth and individuality of each elderly person, affirming their right to health, dignity, and a life worth living.

Many people think palliative medicine is the same as hospice care, but that is far from the truth, and knowing the distinction between the two can make a significant difference in your loved one’s quality of life and even the time they get to share with you and their loved ones.

In this article, we will go over the concept of palliative medicine, how it differs from hospice care, and how it can help your beloved senior live their golden years to the fullest for longer.

The goal of palliative medicine is to extend full living for your elderly loved one. An elderly woman doing one of the things she loves the most, which is painting

1 – What Is Palliative Medicine and What Are Its Goals?

Palliative medicine is an approach to caregiving for seniors with chronic and degenerative conditions that seeks to extend healthy and enjoyable living for them.

Palliative caregivers know that having such conditions doesn’t need to be the end of a joyful life, and that caregiving for the latter stages of life is not only about extending survival, but dignified and enjoyable living.

You want your senior to stay with you as long as possible, being the vibrant and loving person they have always been.

In sum, palliative care provides a set of best practices aimed at maintaining the quality of your senior’s life for as long as possible so they can live a life as dignified and fulfilling as they have always lived it.

2 – How is Palliative Medicine Different from Hospice Care?

Knowing the difference between palliative medicine and hospice care is crucial for understanding how each addresses different aspects of elderly healthcare, and what is the best alternative for your loved one.

Palliate and hospice care differ in stark ways, while the first strives to keep quality and fulfillment against chronic and even incurable conditions, the second focuses on comfort, emotional support, and solace in the face of short-term departure.

Palliative medicine is a comprehensive approach aimed at improving the quality of life for individuals facing chronic illnesses, regardless of the stage of the disease. It focuses on managing small and large symptoms, providing emotional support, and helping patients make decisions about their care.

This is why palliative care can be integrated at any point during an illness and is not exclusive to end-of-life situations.

On the other hand, hospice care is a specific type of palliative care designed for individuals in the advanced stages of a terminal illness. It comes into play when curative treatments are no longer effective or desired.

Hospice care centers on providing comfort, pain management, and emotional support for the patient and their family in the final stages of life.

Unlike palliative medicine, hospice care is typically initiated when the prognosis is a life expectancy of six months or less.

Opting for hospice care too soon may shorten your senior’s life or diminish its quality because hospice care does not put in play treatment strategies that could have helped your loved one keep a good level of health and well-being for a longer time, enjoying more of their days with you and the people they love.

On the other hand, palliative care can extend full life for your senior for longer, even in the face of conditions like cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease, or other important illnesses.

Palliative services are significantly different in their goals to hospice care. A group of seniors of different ethnicities enjoying a visit to a park in their city

As Amy’s Eden director, Deena, puts it: “Palliative care may have come about because many people in the past have passed on too early because they were induced to hospice care too soon for them.”

3 – What Are The Principles of Palliative Care?

Palliative care principles guide the quality of care provided by palliative care providers. They include:

A – Respecting Your Senior’s Process

Respecting your senior’s process in palliative medicine starts with acknowledging your loved one’s unique journey and individual needs. It’s about understanding that each person’s experience with illness is personal, and hence, tailoring care to align with their values, preferences, and frame of mind.

This principle emphasizes the importance of recognizing and honoring the inherent dignity of your loved one, allowing them to navigate their health challenges in a way that feels authentic and respectful.

Going along with your senior’s process of dealing with their disease calls for patience; it requires taking time to understand how your senior feels about their current health condition and finding the proper moments to talk about it and about how their family and healthcare professionals can help them make it better and keep enjoying life.

B – Prioritizing Your Loved One’s Desires and Opinions

In palliative care, prioritizing your loved one’s desires and opinions is paramount. It requires actively involving them in decision-making processes related to their care, ensuring that their preferences are decisive for the direction of the treatment they receive.

Autonomy and self-determination can change your senior’s outlook towards the treatment options you’re proposing, improve their attitude about them, and even enhance their results.

Sitting down with your loved one to talk about their caregiving options requires first doing your best to understand their needs, feelings, and how they believe palliative medicine can help them thrive.

A worthy palliative care provider, as an extension of your loving support towards your senior, will also do the same. They should take into consideration your loved one’s feelings and desires to adapt care to them and foster an environment where your loved one feels heard and empowered to make choices aligned with their values.

C – Constant and Clear Communication

Constant and clear communication is a foundational principle in palliative medicine. It involves maintaining an open and transparent dialogue among healthcare professionals, your loved one, and their family, keeping everyone informed about the progression of the illness, available treatment options, and the overall care plan.

Effective communication fosters trust, reduces uncertainty, and ensures that everyone involved is on the same page, working together to provide the best possible support for your beloved senior.

A member of a palliative medical term having an open talk with a family

D – Relief From Pain and Symptom Control

Relief from pain and symptom control is one of the main criteria guiding decisions related to your loved one’s care in palliative medicine.

This principle focuses on mitigating physical discomfort and managing symptoms associated with the illness. It requires a collaborative approach between your loved one and their healthcare providers to tailor treatments that address pain, fatigue, nausea, and other undesirable symptoms.

In palliative medicine, relief from pain and symptom control goes beyond controlling pain. By prioritizing not only short-term comfort but well-being, this principle aims to enhance the overall quality of life for your senior for as long as possible.

It is about reducing symptoms in such a way that your loved one can keep as much of their functionality as possible, enabling them to enjoy a wide range of activities, which will in turn boost their happiness and self-esteem, and consequently, their attitude towards their care plan and its results, creating a positive feedback loop.

E – Wholesome Support for You and Your Loved One

Wholesome support extends the focus beyond the patient to encompass the well-being of family members and caregivers.

This principle recognizes the emotional and practical challenges faced by those caring for an elderly person with a serious illness. It emphasizes the importance of providing comprehensive support, including emotional assistance, respite care, and practical resources.

By attending to the needs of both the patient and their support network, palliative medicine becomes a holistic and compassionate approach that considers the well-being of everyone involved in the caregiving journey.

4 – How to Choose the Best Palliative Medicine Option for Your Senior?

After understanding the differences between palliative medicine and hospice care, and understanding the principles that guide a good palliative care practice, perhaps your loved one and you have concluded that palliative medicine is the best choice for your senior’s needs at this stage of their life.

Now it’s time to look at your options and pick the best possible palliative medicine service. Four simple steps can help you tackle this important part of the process.

a) Involve Your Senior in Decision-Making

As we’ve said, considering your senior’s view as the protagonist of their own life is one of the guiding principles of palliative medicine.

Engage in open and candid conversations with both your loved one and their healthcare team to comprehensively explore what you’re looking for in a palliative care service. This collaborative discussion ensures that your choice will be well-informed and grounded in a deep understanding of your senior’s unique needs.

In thoroughly evaluating and discussing treatment options as a team, you and your loved one will choose palliative care that is not only medically sound but also deeply attuned to the values and preferences that define your senior’s journey.

Black senior and wife researching what palliative treatment is better for her

b) Evaluate and Discuss Treatment Options and Preferences

The pivotal next step is to thoroughly evaluate treatment options and preferences, and discuss them with your beloved senior.

Do thorough research on each alternative and consider:

  • How does each care provider describe its services and what does this tell you about their view of palliative medicine?
  • What’s its strategy to provide quality palliative care and what specific best practices it promotes to deliver a service that truly aligns with the principles of palliative medicine?
  • How does each option align with your senior’s values and goals?
  • How each provider’s practice is based on solid medical science and a deep commitment to elderly well-being?

As our director Deena puts it: “Research each company’s principles and practices before going with a company. A good palliative care strategy should be oriented towards treating illness and keeping a patient comfortable and able; to relieve suffering and still have the best quality of life possible.”

3 – Sit Down With Your Candidate Providers and Choose The Best Alternative

Now that you and your senior have done your research and narrowed it down to a few potential palliative care providers, it’s time to meet your candidates.

Take time to prepare for the conversation. Make a list of questions, concerns, and goals you have regarding your loved one’s care based on the previous research.

One of your main objectives for this talk should be to gauge the match between the provider and your senior, and how their model of care adapts to your loved one’s needs, expectations, and values.

To this end, consider sharing with your provider your senior’s medical history, current symptoms, treatment options, and preferences as much as you feel comfortable doing.

Once you and your elderly loved one have met all the candidates, discuss all the information you have and confidently make a decision.

4 – Continuously Evaluate Your Elderly Loved One’s Caregiving Plan

Getting premium care for your beloved senior doesn’t end once you select their palliative medicine provider. As your senior’s needs evolve, adjustments to the treatment plan may be necessary.

Maintain permanent communication with the management and staff of your loved one’s palliative care provider to ensure that their care continues to align with your loved one’s changing circumstances. Regularly review and reassess your chosen palliative care provider and service plan.

Amy’s Eden Offers Premium Palliative Medicine Services in Reno and Carson City, Nevada

At Amy’s Eden, we make a clear distinction between palliative medicine and hospice care and understand each one’s role in the late stages of your loved one’s life.

Moreover, our level of attention to detail and our deep understanding of palliative medicine are the core strengths that let us provide one of the best palliative services for elderly people in Nevada.

As our director Deena has put it: “At Amy’s Eden, we treat the small and big symptoms and we do everything possible, following Doctor’s protocols, to help our clients feel comfortable and remain functional while living with a disease.”

At Amy’s Eden, we go above and beyond in this area because our caregiver-to-patient ratio is almost one on one.

Our loving experts will work directly with your beloved senior to thoroughly understand your loved one as well as their condition, become an extension of your love for your senior, and act as part of your loved one’s wellness team.

Asian elderly woman being strolled around on her wheelchair. This is an example of palliative care

Amy’s Eden’s mission is to advocate and provide the BEST specialized care option for the joy and well-being of aging seniors and do so in a comfortable environment of stimulus, love, and connection.

We are excited to support your elderly relative or friend in maintaining their health, safety, and happiness.

Please reach out to us today to start a conversation about how we can work together to meet your senior’s palliative medicine needs.

Learn more: Qualifications For Palliative Care: Is My Loved One Eligible?

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