Palliative Care Explained

The Role of Palliative Care in Chronic Illness

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Definition: Palliative care is an area of medicine that does not aim to cure a health problem, rather the goal is to reduce the severity of symptoms or slow the progress of the disease. The goals of palliative care include relieving pain, symptom relief and providing emotional support.

Who Receives Palliative Care

While hospice is a form of palliative care, a patient receiving palliative care may not necessarily be a hospice patient.

In hospice, the patient is expected to have a life-span of six months or less, and is receiving end of life care. A palliative patient may have many years of life ahead and is not necessarily nearing the end of their life.

The Difference Between Hospice and Palliative Care

What Palliative Care Means For the Patient

Palliative care not only provides symptom relief and pain relief, palliative care provides emotional support for the patient, family and caregivers.   Some families find it difficult to deal with the the transition from seeking a cure to seeking comfort, but are often appreciative of the assistance with care provided in the home.

Palliative care does not mean giving up, it means that the goal of care has changed from seeking a cure to seeking quality of life.  Accepting palliative care does not mean welcoming death, it means accepting outside assistance to make the best of the time that remains.

Surgery and Palliative Care

Surgery, in some circumstances, can be a palliative measure if it is done to relieve pain or symptoms rather than curing the problem.  While surgery isn't routinely done for palliative patients, there certainly is a time and place where surgery is appropriate.  The decision to have surgery would be made on a case-by-case basis in consultation with a surgeon.

As an example, if a patient who is on palliative care is doing well but begins to experience new and unrelated abdominal pain, that pain should be addressed.  If the patient is diagnosed with appendicitis, the surgery to fix the problem will likely be performed.  However, if a patient falls and breaks their hip, but their life expectancy is very short due to another issue, the surgery may not be performed as it is a  painful recovery and the patient can't be expected to participate in rehabilitation.

Pronunciation: pall-ee-uh-tive

Also Known As: hospice, palliative surgery,

Common Misspellings: paliative, pallative, pallitive,

Examples: The patient knew there was no cure for emphysema, but palliative care could help make the disease more tolerable.

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