Some residents of Mt. Vernon and elsewhere only learn about palliative care toward the end of their life, often when they are being evaluated whether to move into hospice care.
However, in many cases, they may be able to access it much sooner, something that not every health care provider knows to discuss, and every patient knows to ask for more details about.
The staff at Above and Beyond Home Health Care and Hospice works with several patients who are receiving palliative care during their recovery and therapy, and some who are receiving palliative care as part of a hospice setting.
Either way, we’re always happy to answer any questions that patients or their families may have about palliative care or the services we offer, or relay any information to or from a health care provider.
We know it can sometimes be an unfamiliar time and a difficult situation for many families, which is exactly why the concept of palliative care appeals to many patients at any point in their medical journey.
Having the medical focus be on quality of life rather than possibly more invasive or painful medical procedures can be welcoming to many patients, especially if they’ve been battling chronic diseases or other critical health conditions.
If you’re not familiar with palliative care, is a medical philosophy that focuses less on “curing at any cost, no matter the risk” and more on allowing a patient to feel less pressure and pain and have more opportunities to enjoy life, whether it’s months or years.
It’s often advocated in hospice situations, where a physician may opt to send a patient home to spend their remaining time with loved ones, rather than making spending their final days in a scary, unpleasant hospital. Or, rather than trying experimental procedures or risky surgeries, they may focus on pain management.
This isn’t ‘giving up’ at all, just transitioning to a different type of care. Clients still can receive regular visits from home health care nurses or other therapists and their providers and any hospice staff will want to keep track of their health.
For instance, we’re always happy to help our patients with everything from regular massage therapy to suggestions on how to make their homes safer especially if their mobility becomes limited. We also can help with light housework and even respite care for caregivers.
However, not everyone knows that palliative care can be offered much earlier in the process, regardless of any medical diagnosis or prognosis, even before, during or after treatment for a chronic disease or health condition.
At some medical centers or provider clinics, this request from the patient or provider may be able to activate a team of palliative care specialists, including physicians, nurses, therapists, and others to discuss the patient and their options.
Sometimes, it may mean that they are discharged from the hospital but still receive care, either through home health visits, trips to the doctor’s office, or both.
It could also mean a change in procedure to something less invasive or painful, such as looking for alternatives to chemotherapy or radiation therapy for cancer care.
As emphasized, palliative care doesn’t mean giving up all medical care and going home to wait to pass away. In some cases, being able to choose a direction toward a higher quality of life can lead to actual recovery.
Being removed from the stresses of the hospital system in one’s own home, getting better sleep in one’s own bed, and being surrounded by loved ones and personal surroundings can certainly be much more conducive to better healing than being in a hospital setting full of noisy equipment and regular round-the-clock visits from nurses, doctors and other medical staff.
In cancer situations especially, focusing on palliative care doesn’t just help reduce stress, studies have shown that it helps people cope better with what’s taking place and what might be ahead. It makes people feel more in control of their present and future, whatever the outcome, rather than remaining directly under doctor’s care and receiving test after test or different methods. This can be exhausting and painful.
This is why patients should feel empowered to discuss palliative care options with their provider, even if the provider doesn’t necessarily bring it up. This could be done before, during or after treatment for chronic conditions.
In some cases, the provider may be so focused on their role of helping and fixing, which is why many of them have gone into the profession, that they may need reminding that there are other options available. Or, because palliative care options are becoming more common, not every provider will be as familiar.
This is a perfect opportunity to educate yourself and those around you: October is National Critical Illness Awareness Month, an occasion to learn more about different critical health conditions, including resources for treatment and support.
People can learn different methods to prevent them or different treatment options if they or a loved one are battling certain critical illnesses.