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Hospice of the Chesapeake & Chesapeake Supportive Care
Palliative Care? But, I’m Not Dying
Hospice of the Chesapeake & Chesapeake Supportive Care
. https://www.hospicechesapeake.org/

Palliative Care? But, I’m Not Dying

Somewhere along the way, the term “palliative care” picked up a scary reputation. Should a medical professional bring it up as a treatment option, many people think it’s a death sentence.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Palliative care is all about living.

The field is relatively new – the American Board of Medical Specialties only recognized hospice and palliative medicine as a medical specialty in 2006. Both are patient-centered and focused on quality of life for those experiencing complex advanced illness. Both seek to anticipate, prevent and treat suffering, including pain and other symptoms of illness.

Hospice is a form of palliative care, just at a different level. The key difference is you can still receive curative treatment and you do not have to have a terminal diagnosis to receive palliative care. However, to receive hospice care, a physician has to certify that a cure is not possible and that the disease is terminal, with a prognosis of six months or less should it run its normal course.

Palliative and hospice care employ a biopsychosocial approach, addressing not just the physical, but also intellectual, emotional, social and spiritual needs of patients and families, ensuring they have access to all the information and choices ahead.

With so many factors to consider, the patient works with a team of professionals who specialize in palliative care that can include but is not limited to a physician, a nurse practitioner, a nurse and a social worker. And as patients can receive palliative care in conjunction with other treatments or therapies, that team grows to include other specialists, such as an oncologist or cardiologist.

A hospice patient also receives palliative care, but the focus shifts to helping the patient make the most of the time they have left. Supporting family members becomes even more important. If not already part of the team, a chaplain and volunteers join in the mission of helping patients be as free of pain and troublesome symptoms as possible. Grief support begins even before the patient dies, to help them and their family prepare for this stage of life.

Most importantly, being referred to palliative care does not necessarily mean you are facing imminent death. People with complex advanced illnesses such as congestive heart failure and sickle cell disease can often live longer because the focus isn’t only the disease, but the wellbeing of the whole person.

If someone suggests you consider palliative care, do not panic and assume the worse. It can be the first step to better days.

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