Understanding palliative care, its benefits, and the difference between palliative care and hospice is necessary when faced with the decisions about whether or not to pursue this special type of assistance.
The term palliative care refers to a specially trained team of specialists designed to meet the needs of a patient with a chronic and serious illness that work together to give the patient the best possible care. The team is comprised of many different professionals according to the patient’s needs and may include:
- Physician’s assistants
- Social Workers
- Physical Therapists
- Grief counselors
- Extended hours staff
- Home care team
While palliative care is often used as a means by which to recover from a serious illness, it is also appropriate for geriatric patients who require ongoing care. This type of medical service is helpful for a patient of any age and at any stage of their illness, whether it is terminal or not. People suffering from serious illness like kidney failure, Alzheimer’s, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), heart failure, cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) find that palliative care offers them a means by which to gain strength and control over their treatment.
The ultimate goal of palliative care is to make the patient as comfortable as possible throughout their recovery, regardless of how long it takes. There are no time restrictions on this type of care and it is an option for patients at any stage of their illness regardless of the medical doctor’s prognosis.
Differences between palliative care and hospice
A patient that has terminal prognosis and is within six months of death is generally a good candidate for hospice care. With a referral from the patient’s primary care physician, a team of hospice care professional administers assistance in the patient’s home. Hospice care programs often include bereavement counseling, day-to-day care, medical equipment, treatment of symptoms, and medication oversight by a team of professionals dedicated to the health and comfort of the patient during their last months and days.
Palliative care isn’t restricted to any set amount of time and does not require a terminal diagnosis. This kind of care does not necessarily forgo life-prolonging treatments. A patient participating in palliative care may make a full recovery, depending on the diagnosis.
Non-medical home care and palliative care: Working together for patient comfort
Palliative care requires a team approach and dedication to patient comfort, care, and symptom control. While it is most common for palliative care to be administered while the patient is in the hospital, nursing home, or extended care facility, it is also possible for this type of care to be integrated with home care so the patient can recover in the comfort of their own home.
While the medical team is responsible for understanding the illness, prescribing and administering medication, and controlling symptoms, non-medical home care provides services that allow the patient to remain at home by facilitating the seven activities of daily living.
- Bathing and Grooming
- Dressing and Undressing
- Meal Preparation and Feeding
- Functional Transfers
- Safe Restroom Use and Maintaining Continence
- Memory Care and Stimulation
Whether the patient needs just a few hours of care or ongoing round-the-clock help, a home care professional or team makes it possible for the patient to live at home comfortable, safely, and without the stress of managing a household.
Retaining control over the recovery process by working closely with a palliative care team makes a big difference in the quality of life of the patient.
The first step to getting palliative care for yourself or a loved one is to speak with the doctor in charge of patient care. They will help you determine exactly what kind of care is best for a specific situation.
This home modification checklist from the National Caregivers Library is a great resource for making home as safe as possible to facilitate palliative care. Each section contains actionable recommendations to help identify potential hazards and correct them throughout the home.
Planning a smooth transition for patients requires planning and coordination. Health care workers, home care professionals, family members, and friends can work together to make a plan that will make recovery or end-of-life care a good experience for the patient. This Family Caregiver’s Guide to Care Coordination, featured in a New York Times article, is a helpful resource.
For more information about how to pursue palliative care and how Sevens Home Care can facilitate a successful journey through this stage in your or your loved one’s life, please contact us.