Palliative care helps people at any stage of illness improve their quality of life.
Getting diagnosed with a serious illness affects more than a person’s physical health. It can touch multiple areas of their life, including their emotional well-being, finances, and social and spiritual life. A patient’s diagnosis can also significantly impact their family’s lives as well.
Receiving an unexpected diagnosis is hard enough—without having to worry about all the other ways it can impact your life. That’s why, as part of a normal treatment regimen, patients have access to palliative care, and are encouraged to utilize it.
“Palliative care is specialized medical care for people with serious illness, the goal of which is to improve quality of life for patients and their families,” says Nathan E. Goldstein, MD, a palliative care specialist at Mount Sinai in New York City. “The goal of palliative care is to improve patients’ symptoms so they can get the underlying treatment they need aimed at curing or prolonging their life.”
Palliative care may include help with:
Physical symptoms. Palliative care can help with any physical symptom that may be affecting a patient’s quality of life, such as feeling pain or having trouble sleeping or eating. These treatments may include medications, nutritional guidance, physical therapy, occupational therapy, or integrative therapies.
Emotional, social, and coping problems. Patients and their families may face a lot of stress as they cope with an illness, which can lead to other mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression. Palliative care treatments to help patients cope with emotional issues may include therapy, support groups, or family meetings.
Practical issues. Palliative care can also help with practical money- or job-related problems that an illness may bring up. Palliative care can help with financial counseling, housing, or transportation.
Spiritual guidance. When faced with an illness, a patient may look for meaning in what’s happening to them and/or question their faith. Palliative care can address these issues and help patients explore their feelings and find acceptance.
Who Can Get Palliative Care?
Palliative care is a resource for anyone living with a serious illness, such as heart failure, cancer, dementia, and Parkinson’s disease. Palliative care may not be appropriate for patients with chronic conditions that aren’t serious, says Dr. Goldstein. “For example, patients with chronic back pain, while they’re certainly suffering with pain, may not be appropriate for palliative care.”
There’s a common misconception that patients who receive palliative care are at the end of their lives. “That’s absolutely not true,” says Dr. Goldstein. “Palliative care is for any age, at any stage—and people who get palliative care will live years and years, and many people who get palliative care will actually be cured.”
Nathan E. Goldstein, MD, is a professor of geriatrics and palliative medicine at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
00:00:00,119 --> 00:00:02,554
00:00:02,554 --> 00:00:06,825
Palliative care is specialized medical
care for people with serious illness.
00:00:06,825 --> 00:00:09,969
The goal of which is to improve
the quality of life for patients and
00:00:09,969 --> 00:00:10,836
00:00:10,836 --> 00:00:16,513
00:00:16,513 --> 00:00:20,130
I think patients often have
concerns about palliative care.
00:00:20,130 --> 00:00:23,899
The first one is, they think it means that
they're at the end of their lives, and
00:00:23,899 --> 00:00:25,810
that is absolutely not true.
00:00:25,810 --> 00:00:28,960
Palliative care is for
people at any age or any stage.
00:00:28,960 --> 00:00:31,000
And people who get palliative
care will live years and
00:00:31,000 --> 00:00:34,790
years, and many people who get
palliative care will actually be cured.
00:00:34,790 --> 00:00:38,720
So the goal of palliative care is to
improve patient's symptoms, so they can
00:00:38,720 --> 00:00:43,350
get the underlying treatment they need
aimed at curing or prolonging their life.
00:00:43,350 --> 00:00:46,676
The criteria for getting palliative
care is having a chronic illness for
00:00:46,676 --> 00:00:48,269
which you need a little more help.
00:00:48,269 --> 00:00:52,523
This includes patients with cancer,
with heart disease, with liver disease,
00:00:52,523 --> 00:00:55,450
kidney disease, and
a wide range of other illnesses.
00:00:55,450 --> 00:00:58,620
Palliative probably isn't appropriate for
patients with chronic, but
00:00:58,620 --> 00:01:00,140
not serious illness.
00:01:00,140 --> 00:01:03,010
So for example,
patients with chronic back pain, while
00:01:03,010 --> 00:01:07,720
they're certainly suffering with pain, may
not be appropriate for palliative care.
00:01:07,720 --> 00:01:10,630
Palliative care treats
a wide range of symptoms.
00:01:10,630 --> 00:01:15,200
So the main thing that people think about
palliative care for is physical symptoms,
00:01:15,200 --> 00:01:19,160
but we also treat a wide range
of psychological symptoms.
00:01:19,160 --> 00:01:23,000
We work a lot with patients who
have anxiety or depression or
00:01:23,000 --> 00:01:26,710
just general problems coping with their
serious illness, which is pretty normal.
00:01:26,710 --> 00:01:31,100
So palliative care teams in general
have four core individuals,
00:01:31,100 --> 00:01:37,050
a physician, a nurse practitioner or
a nurse, a social worker, and a chaplain.
00:01:37,050 --> 00:01:39,710
In addition, palliative care
teams can have a wide range of
00:01:39,710 --> 00:01:44,270
services that can include things
like massage therapy, child life,
00:01:44,270 --> 00:01:49,090
music therapy, arts therapy, and
a whole wide range of volunteers.
00:01:49,090 --> 00:01:52,840
Caregiving for someone with a serious
illness can be quite difficult.
00:01:52,840 --> 00:01:56,810
One of the things we do for caregivers
is make sure they also understand
00:01:56,810 --> 00:01:58,530
what's happening with a patient's illness.
00:01:58,530 --> 00:02:01,840
Make sure they understand the patient's
medicines and how they should be given.
00:02:01,840 --> 00:02:06,440
So we work with caregivers to help
relieve some of the caregiver burden, and
00:02:06,440 --> 00:02:08,580
the problems associated
with being a caregiver for
00:02:08,580 --> 00:02:10,210
someone with a serious illness.
00:02:10,210 --> 00:02:14,350
We like to say that we do three things:
we control pain and other symptoms.
00:02:14,350 --> 00:02:18,650
We make sure that patients understand
what's going on with their medical illness
00:02:18,650 --> 00:02:23,130
and can make the best decisions, that is
translate medicalese back into English.
00:02:23,130 --> 00:02:26,220
And then we make sure that patients have
the package of services that they need
00:02:26,220 --> 00:02:27,380
in the right setting.
00:02:27,380 --> 00:02:29,307
So whether that's in a hospital or
00:02:29,307 --> 00:02:32,829
whether that's going home or
to a rehab facility, we make sure
00:02:32,829 --> 00:02:37,432
that patients have a package of services
that they need to get them to their goals.
What Are Palliative Care and Hospice Care? Baltimore, MD. National Institute on Aging. (Accessed on April 2, 2021 at https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-are-palliative-care-and-hospice-care)Primary palliative care. Watham, MA. UpToDate, 2020. (Accessed on April 2, 2021 at https://www.uptodate.com/contents/primary-palliative-care)