When is the right time for palliative care? Some think it’s only necessary towards End-of-Life but we found an interesting story that argues it should come sooner.
“I often hear from families of (sick) patients who are wondering when is the right time for palliative care,” writes Camilla Zimmerman. “Most people think of it as something that comes at the very end of life but there is a new movement in the hospice care industry towards ‘early palliative care.’”
What is early palliative care exactly? It’s when a person gets help when they need it instead of waiting until all other treatments have been stopped.
Does receiving early palliative care mean you are giving up too soon? Zimmerman doesn’t think so. “There are many myths about palliative care and one is that it will remove hope or shorten someone’s life,” writes Zimmerman. “This is untrue and deters many people from getting help during stressful times.”
When palliative care gained momentum in the 1960s it was aimed at the very End-of-Life but today many experts say the benefits can be seen much earlier. In 2014 the World Health Organization defines palliative care as anything that improves the quality of life of patients facing serious illnesses by the early treatment of pain and other problems.
“’Early’ means not right at the end of life, but when active treatment of the disease is still ongoing with the aim of prolonging life,” writes Zimmerman. “’Early’ also means treating problems proactively and preventatively, rather than letting them get out of hand.”
Research shows patients who receive early palliative care survive longer and have an improved overall quality of life. Zimmerman singles out a few specific areas where early palliative care can provide help:
Pain and symptom management – People usually associate palliative care with pain management but it also treats symptoms like shortness of breath, nausea, lack of appetite and trouble sleeping.
Coping with serious illness – Dealing with illness can be difficult for the whole family. Palliative care can provide counseling or refer you to counselors in the hospital or in your community.
Social support – Most palliative care teams include social workers that can provide assistance with financial issues and individual and family counseling.
Help at home – Some palliative care teams will connect you with community care resources that can provide help at home for tasks like bathing, physical therapy and advice on modifying your home to meet a sick person’s needs.
Advance care planning – Early palliative care teams can also help you start your Advance Directive process, which is best done when you are well enough to make decisions for yourself.
Zimmerman suggests if your doctor offers to connect you or a family member with a palliative care team, “take them up on it. It will provide you with a support system to guide you through the complexities of living with a serious illness. It will not shorten survival – it may even prolong it.”
Read the story here.