Palliative care is a relatively young field in medicine. While it is connected to hospice care, the two do have distinct differences. Hospice care is appropriate during the last six months of life, while palliative care is appropriate much sooner. With hospice care, curative approaches stop, and the focus shifts to pain management, comfort and spiritual and emotional support. Palliative care offers these same types of support, but it can be initiated much sooner than hospice. A patient does not have to stop curative treatments. In fact, it remains appropriate through all steps in a life-threatening condition. Patients who enter palliative care sometimes are not even appropriate or eligible for hospice treatments.

The Research

The benefits of palliative care continue to be discovered. Research on this topic is being conducted regularly. A landmark  New England Journal of Medicine study in 2010 by Temel and colleagues discussed how palliative care both improves quality of life and outcomes for patients diagnosed with lung cancer. Other studies have shown how palliative care reduces the cost of care and improves outcomes for not only patients but family members.

More than the Disease

While all of these researched advantages are important, perhaps none is more important than the way in which palliative care gives patients a unique opportunity to talk about their illness, communicate their concerns and express their challenges, doubts and fears. When a person is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, it is easy for that person to in some ways become the disease. They are described as a “cancer patient”, a “person in kidney failure” or a “stroke victim”.

Their illnesses are no doubt a part of their day to day life, but describing someone only in this way fails to recognize them for the unique individual they are – someone with their own goals, values and even definition of what living life means. In palliative care, patients are given the opportunity to express themselves as individuals. Compassionate professionals and volunteers spend time with them talking about their illness and things outside of their illness. They might share stories, reflect on past memories or express hope or fear about the future. This important component of the palliative care experience is all about how people communicate and interact, and it helps us to gain a better understanding about how an illness impacts emotions, feelings and lives.

Benefits for the Family

As much as palliative care is for the patient, it is also for the family. When a loved one is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, it’s scary. The diagnosis brings up a lot of questions and uncertainties. Having a supportive team to listen to concerns helps the family to feel more confident about their path ahead. Additionally, caring for someone who is battling the side effects of chemotherapy or other intense treatments is very challenging. With palliative care professionals by the family’s side, day to day tasks are made easier, and the family has more time to focus on offering support instead of meeting essential care needs.

The Truth About Palliative Care

The truth about palliative care is that it’s individual. It’s about empowering people to continue through treatment, find relief from pain, have opportunities to express their frustrations and fears and enjoy life more.  It’s about making the difficult questions a little easier to answer and finding hope when hope appears to be lost. This is the type of care Salus Homecare of Los Angeles delivers to all of our patients. You’re never alone on this difficult journey. We’re always here to help. Contact us to ask questions or schedule a consultation.

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