Palliative care is designed to address many of the emotional and mental discomforts associated with life threatening illness. Whether its therapeutic massage or counseling, the goal of palliative care is to make the patient feel better. Radiation, chemotherapy and surgery fall under curative care and are designed to eliminate or slow the progression of life threatening disease.
Considering Palliative Care
It is recommended that patients receiving curative care also receive palliative care to not only address emotional concerns associated with illness but to also reduce the emotional effects associated with curative care treatment. Illnesses treated through palliative care include cancer, congestive heart failure, COPD, kidney failure, AIDS, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS and many others.
The Palliative Care Team
The Palliative care team is comprised of a group of board certified clinicians who are specialists in the use of hospice and palliative therapies. Their unique plan of care is specific to each client and is based on client goals and objectives. Additional support is often garnered from those closely associated with the patient.
They include social workers, chaplains, registered dietitians, music therapists and/or counselors. Working in conjunction with the patient support team, the palliative care team offers continued service throughout the life of the illness and curative treatment.
Palliative Care Criteria
Although not a complete list, a palliative consult may be necessary when:
- A conflict between the patient and, or, the family and the care team exists.
- The patient cannot be weaned from the ventilator.
- The patient, family or care team requires help determining goals and making complex decisions.
- The patient has more than one emergency department admission per month for the same issue.
- The patient shows no signs of clinical improvement after more than five days in the hospital.
- The patient’s symptoms are uncontrolled for over 24 hours.
- There is an indication of future deterioration.
- While in ICU, the patient has multi-organ failure.
Hospice Care or Palliative Care?
Hospice care is palliative care. However, it is designed to provide comfort for patients with fewer than six months to live. Palliative care treatment can be designed for anyone diagnosed with a life threatening illness regardless of life expectancy.
As stated previously, palliative care can begin upon diagnosis and can be administered alongside curative care treatment. Hospice care, however, begins when curative treatment is no longer effective against the disease and the benefit of treatment no longer outweighs its side effect(s).
Is Palliative Care Covered?
While Medicare and Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California) only cover hospice during the last six months of life, most insurance plans offer coverage for palliative care treatment.
Palliative Care Information and Resources
To determine if palliative care is right for you, consult your physician or healthcare specialist. The palliative care consultation is free and is designed to address questions and concerns as professionals construct programs tailored to meet individual need.