Although palliative care is not a new branch of medicine, there remain misunderstandings about palliative treatments that can make it harder to manage a serious illness. Palliative care is one of the best options to improve your quality of life.
1. Palliative Care Is Not Hospice
Some people tend to equate palliative care with hospice. Although many people who are in hospice also receive palliative care, they are not synonymous. Hospice care is exclusively for people with a serious illness that has progressed to a point where their life expectancy is six months or less. Anyone with a serious illness can receive palliative care, regardless of their current life expectancy or the stage of their illness.
The goal of palliative care is to reduce symptoms associated with your condition and provide physical and emotional support to patients. A palliative approach can be better when addressing symptoms because it is comprehensive. Serious illness can have different symptoms and affect various organ systems. Instead of going to different specialists for symptom management, many of your symptoms might be handled by the same team.
2. You Continue Standard Treatments
Palliative care has nothing to do with the treatments you are currently receiving for your illness. Most people who receive palliative care continue to try various treatments to potentially cure their illness or at least improve the situation. Another advantage of palliative care while you are undergoing treatment is you have another avenue to address any side effects that might occur as a result of treatment.
For example, someone with advanced cancer might benefit from palliative care to help reduce the pain associated with a cancerous tumor but might also need nutritional support, fatigue management, or general help after surgery to remove the tumor or chemotherapy.
3. It's Not Just Physical
Unlike other specialties that deal with serious illness, palliative care offers a multidimensional approach to treating patients, which includes the mental aspects of illness and the effects on caregivers. People with a serious illness may develop depression, anxiety, or symptoms associated with distress. Unfortunately, the mental aspects of a serious illness can make it harder to deal with the physical symptoms. Palliative care involves the use of psychiatric medications, if necessary, to help with mental illness.
Additionally, therapists who often specialize in patients with serious illnesses are available to talk with patients and family members. Separate emotional support resources are available for family members and caregivers who often have unique challenges when their loved one is seriously ill.
Debunking the myths associated with palliative care means more people with serious illnesses can live a better quality of life. Generally, you should try palliative as soon as possible for the maximum benefits.