What Is Palliative Care?
Palliative care is whole-person care that doesn’t attempt to cure a chronic illness, but instead looks to reduce the pain and other symptoms of a specific disorder. This ultimately improves your quality of life and helps you better cope with the stress of your illness.
Palliative care is typically administered by your healthcare team, which could include a doctor, nurse, nutritionist and local volunteers. This can be done at centers including a hospital or assisted-living facility, or in the comfort of your own home.
Doctors who specialize in administering palliative care will also work with you in developing a treatment plan, coordinating care with your other doctors and navigating the healthcare system. Because you can receive this care while simultaneously undergoing treatment, it may also be beneficial in helping minimize discomfort during therapies which can be aggressive.
Isn’t Palliative Care Really Just Hospice Care?
No. Hospice care is a specific type of palliative care for people who have six months or less to live, but it is not reflective of all palliative care. And while hospice care is typically reserved for patients where death in the near future is inevitable, palliative care patients generally still receive treatment and therapy for their illness.
When Should I Get Palliative Care?
Whether you’ve just been diagnosed or living with a chronic illness for years, palliative care is beneficial at any age or stage of treatment if you have a chronic illness. However, there are a few key signs that receiving this care may be more urgent.
Distressing emotional and physical symptoms: These can include pain, fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, anxiety or depression.
Regular hospital visits: If you’re repeatedly accessing your local hospital or over the course of a year, or experiencing regular health scares, palliative care may help reduce some of the symptoms bringing you to this point.
Progressive dependency on others: If you’re having trouble completing daily tasks, getting dressed or running errands, palliative care can be helpful when you’re not able to take care of yourself.
Does Insurance Cover Palliative Care?
Most private insurance companies and health maintenance organizations (HMO’s) include palliative care in their coverage. Medicare recipients signed on to the extra plan (Part B) are eligible for some palliative care benefits, while Medicaid coverage of these services vary by state.