The term “palliative care” is often misunderstood. Unfortunately, these misconceptions can keep people from realizing all the benefits it can offer. People may assume it means giving up treatment or that it is only for someone who is dying. In fact, this care is compatible with treatment and is meant to help people keep living as long as possible and achieve the best possible quality of life.
So what exactly is palliative care? It is specialized medical care for people living with a serious illness. The care is focused on symptom relief and stress relief related to the illness. The goal of is to improve quality of life for both the patient and their family.
Care is provided by a specialty-trained team of doctors, nurse practitioners, social workers and other specialists who work together with your primary doctors and other specialists to provide an extra layer of support.
To help you better understand what palliative care is and is not, read on for common myths and facts:
MYTH 1 ─ Palliative care is only for the dying.
FACT ─ Palliative care is for anyone who has a serious illness, and it is most beneficial when used at the time of diagnosis. A team of specialists will assess your medical, emotional, social and spiritual needs and those of your family. The team can help you come up with a care plan that works well for you and your family. It provides you the support and assistance you may need to help decide how you want to live your life for as long and as well as possible.
MYTH 2 ─ Palliative care is hospice care.
FACT ─ Palliative care is not hospice care. It can be provided at any stage of illness and at the same time as other medical treatments. Hospice care is for those with six months or less to live.
MYTH 3 ─ Palliative care is only for people with cancer.
FACT ─ This care can help anyone, no matter what the serious illness or chronic disease. Care is available for people with kidney, liver, lung and heart disease, diabetes, dementia, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, and many others.
MYTH 4 ─ You cannot receive other treatments such as chemotherapy while receiving palliative care.
FACT ─ People can continue receiving curative treatments for their illness. The goals are to control symptoms such as pain and improve your quality of life.
MYTH 5 ─ Palliative care means my doctor has given up hope for me.
FACT ─ This care does not mean giving up. It is an extra layer of support and a way to help maximize your quality of life, explore options for care, and assist in navigating the healthcare systems. You are able to establish goals as your illness progresses or your course changes—all the while, helping you live each moment as fully as possible.
To learn about Gilchrist’s Palliative Care program and find out if it’s right for you or a loved one, visit gilchristcares.org/palliative.