Although there are a lot of conditions that can lead to someone in Anamosa and elsewhere needing end of life care, liver disease is fairly high on the list.
According to the Lancet, liver disease is the third most common cause of death among working people. But it is also a health condition that doesn’t necessarily lead to more people needing hospice care, in some cases because they don’t know about it in time.
The team at Above and Beyond Home Health Care and Hospice are happy to educate members of the Eastern Iowa community about different care options whatever their condition and however much time they’ve been told they have.
Advanced liver diseases are unique. Some people may be diagnosed with an end-stage condition but placed on a transplant list. However, these lists can be long, candidates may not be in good health for transportation, so in many cases, people pass away before they are able to be connected with a donor.
They may be already in poor health due to a failing liver or other chronic health conditions and may have already received multiple hospitalizations. But they also may not have been told about hospice programs in their area.
Studies have shown that patients with liver problems often learn about hospice options too late, and would likely benefit more from these services and have a better quality of life if they began them earlier. In comparison, patients with other end-of-life conditions like cancer are hospitalized less but learn about hospice options sooner.
Livers can break down for a number of reasons, from infections and disease like hepatitis to trauma to lifestyle conditions such as chronic alcohol use. As one of the body’s key tools for dealing with toxins, eventually, it can grow weaker and become more damaged.
As a liver declines, it reaches a stage called “decompensated cirrhosis,” a condition that presently can’t be reversed and is fatal, unless a donor’s liver is transplanted.
Cirrhosis is a condition where scar tissue replaces healthy liver tissue, a process that can take years, even decades. Eventually, the surface of the liver becomes so scarred that the entire organ becomes smaller and it doesn’t function well.
As the liver breaks down, it also affects how toxins are managed in the body, so an imbalance in one area can lead to other negative health conditions.
Patients with liver-related health conditions are encouraged to look into palliative care, which is a medical philosophy where the patient’s quality of life is focused on more than treatment methods that are risky or may not have great odds.
It often can involve helping a patient with effective pain management methods rather than more painful treatments, and in some cases, letting them receive treatments at home rather than remaining in a more stressful clinical environment like a hospital or medical center.
Hospice care is one example of a type of palliative care, but some palliative care efforts may also lead to recovery or perhaps may give someone with a failing liver enough time to make it to the top of an organ transplant list.
Awareness of palliative care as an option has been increasing in several areas of medicine in the last decade.
Part of the reason for a growing interest in palliative care is due to more attention to treatment options for end-stage liver disease.
The Liver Foundation said palliative care can provide relief from pain and allow you to continue daily life. It will also make you feel more in control of your health and personal health decisions, and also reduce physical and mental stresses, everything from nausea to general anxiety.
Not every patient is aware that they can request palliative care early in their medical treatment plan, and some providers either forget, don’t know much about it, or may want to continue fighting using aggressive treatment methods.
Depending on your community, declaring “I want to consider palliative care options” can often activate a team of health care professionals familiar with these types of care options. These can include doctors, nurses, social workers, and others.
The palliative team can discuss what’s happening with you, your family, your provider, your caregivers and any other medical officials who have worked with you. They also can discuss your health goals and objectives and give suggestions on how to get there.
While “a complete recovery” might be a long shot for someone with advanced liver disease, they can learn different options available at this point of their life, including seeking a transplant, trying to heal without a transplant, trying other medical solutions such as surgery, or focusing on spending your final days with family members and other loved ones.
Your provider is welcome to be part of the palliative care team of experts but there are also other experts available. However, having someone familiar with you, your liver condition and general medical history may be able to provide useful insight.
This month is a great opportunity to learn more about liver conditions, current research and the importance of early detection. October is L iver Cancer Awareness Month, which is a type of cancer that’s increasing while many other types are decreasing.