Information about Palliative Care
What is Palliative Care?
When a person or the family of a loved one turns to palliative care, they do so in one of the most precarious and daunting moments of a lifetime. Often, it occurs shortly after someone has been diagnosed with a serious illness, at a time when they wish to continue to pursue a cure. While many patients in palliative care still hope for a recovery, they understand that the journey itself will be difficult. A collaborative and consultative approach to helping patients understand the road ahead is what truly matters most.
How We Are Different
We meet all patients where they are in their journey, with the goal of improving their quality of life in the most effective ways possible by relieving the symptoms, stress and pain associated with their illness. The doctors and nurses in our Palliative Medicine Department come together with others from the community to provide patient-centered care and support. Our wish is to create a warm and compassionate outpatient experience.
We provide comprehensive medical care for those dealing with complex prognoses such as cancer, AIDS, congestive heart failure, lung disease, and other chronic conditions. More than just administering treatment and pain relief, we are here to listen to your wishes—and those of your loved ones—as we focus on your physical, psychological and emotional health and needs.
- Advanced symptom management to help cope with issues such as pain, nausea, and other symptoms related either to the illness or medical interventions.
- Referrals to specialists to provide physical, emotional and psychological support for patients and their families.
- Managing transition to hospice.
I’ve only recently heard of palliative care. What is it exactly?
As a medical specialty, palliative care has recently emerged in the last 10 – 15 years. It’s different from hospice care in that it doesn’t only serve the dying, but focuses broadly on improving life and providing comfort to people of all ages with serious, chronic, and life-threatening illnesses. The types of illnesses people in palliative care are dealing with are vast and varied, including cancer, congestive heart failure, kidney failure, AIDS, Alzheimer’s and others. In most situations, a palliative care team includes a physician, nurse, and social worker, and may also involve a chaplain, psychologist or psychiatrist, physical or occupational therapist, dietitian, and others depending on the patient’s needs.
I heard that palliative providers use narcotics. Will I become addicted?
Palliative care seeks to manage symptoms of cancer-related pain. Often, we use opiate and opiate-related medicines along with adjuvants to optimally control pain. Commonly used adjuvant analgesics are a diverse group of medications which include corticosteroids, antidepressants, and anticonvulsants. Acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are frequently used as adjuvants to opioids, even though they are primarily analgesics. We carefully select opiates, and prescribe them in a manner that is meaningfully tailored to each patient. Addiction is rare in patients when used responsibly and as directed for the management of cancer-related pain.
Can my palliative provider see me at home?
For some patients, palliative care at home is the best solution. Unfortunately, we are currently unable to offer this service, but we intend to include home palliative care in the future.
Is my palliative provider now my primary provider?
Your palliative provider works closely with your primary care provider, along with specialty providers, to provide you with whole person medical care. In most cases, patients remain with their primary care providers while receiving care from other specialty providers.