When a loved one has a life-limiting illness, there are lots of decisions to be made. Even before they are ready to give up on interventions which may slow the progress of the disease or even offer a cure, emotional, physical and spiritual needs often increase. Loving family members can certainly offer a higher level of support, but the emotional and physical drain of providing care can sometimes feel like a lot to take on. Oftentimes, it’s difficult for a family members to meet their loved one’s needs without help from a skilled professional.
Palliative care offers the extended physical, emotional and spiritual support that many patients need during this challenging time in life. It differs from hospice care in that the patient can choose to continue with curative treatments while receiving palliative care support. The program is specifically designed to provide a calming and caring environment that preserves the patient’s dignity and eases pain and discomfort.
While these services offer many benefits, it can sometimes be difficult for a family to determine when the right time is to begin palliative care services. Here are six signs that indicate the time might be right.
The Diagnosis of a Serious Illness
Palliative care is designed to ease pain and discomfort, and because of that, it often provides the most benefit when a patient starts services early. As there is no requirement that a patient has a life expectancy of six months or less or stops curative treatments when beginning palliative care, many families find that beginning important conversations with their doctor early, and even right at diagnosis, about these services relieves suffering and improves quality of life.
Suffering is Difficult to Manage Alone
All doctors share a goal of minimizing discomfort and improving quality of life for their patients. However, palliative care doctors and nurses have special training in pain management. They understand the best ways to combine medical and non-medical treatments with emotional support and spiritual support to ease the pain and suffering that can accompany serious medical conditions and the treatments for these conditions. The palliative care team can also help you and your family to understand what’s happening and what to expect as treatments continue. This too can improve quality of life and reduce anxiety, uncertainty and emotional discomfort.
Frequent ER Visits
Palliative care teams offer another set of professional eyes and ears to help your doctor monitor your medical condition and any improvements or setbacks. Therefore, having these services in place can help to reduce the need for frequent emergency room visits. Palliative care fills important gaps in care and provides pain management support that can keep a patient comfortable and stable. If your loved one is in the ER frequently, that can indicate that it’s the right time to discuss palliative care support.
Family caregivers give of themselves willingly when a loved one has a serious health condition. This often means that they sacrifice their own health, their own needs and their own life to provide support. While acting as a family caregiver is fulfilling in many ways, it can also be draining. If you’re a caregiver that’s taking on too much, this can lead to emotional and physical caregiver burnout. While many family caregivers are reluctant to ask for support, bringing in a professional palliative care team can provide the relief you need to continue on and better support your loved one’s needs.
You Need Advice, Advocacy and Support
Palliative care teams include highly trained doctors, nurses, therapists and social workers who often act as the go-to person when a patient or family member has questions or needs support. They can help you access outside services and support groups, find information about end of life planning, more clearly understand medical treatments and new medications or procedures and offer other information that makes living with a serious medical condition easier.
You Want to Explore Drug-Free Alternatives
Palliative care doctors and nurses use many medications to support treatment for a serious illness and provide relief from uncomfortable side effects. However, they use non-medical treatments when appropriate too. These might include massage, physical therapy, heat therapy or music and art therapy. These treatments, when used in conjunction with pain medications, can enhance quality of life, reduce suffering and empower you to feel stronger and more independent.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a serious medical condition, there really is no wrong time to seek palliative care support. This comforting, holistic approach to care can perfectly compliment curative treatments and help you live a happier, more productive and more independent life. Salus Los Angeles is proud to offer our patients palliative care support. If you’re in need of care or have questions about these services, contact us, and let’s explore your options together.