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Palliative Care

Palliative care and the medical specialty of Palliative Medicine refers to specialized medical care focused on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of a serious illness. The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family. Palliative care is provided by a team of specialists, including palliative care doctors, nurses and social workers who work with a patient's other doctors to provide an extra layer of support. It is appropriate at any age and any stage in a serious illness, and it can be provided along with curative treatment.


What does it do?

The palliative care team manages your symptoms. They also provide in-depth communication that helps you and your family match your treatment options with your goals. This level of communication also improves overall care coordination. Palliative care helps you gain the strength to carry on with daily life. It improves your ability to tolerate medical treatments, and it gives you more control by improving your understanding of your choices for treatment.


What's the difference between palliative care and hospice care?

Hospice provides palliative care for people who have six months or less to live. You must no longer be receiving curative treatment. Palliative care, on the other hand, is for anyone with a serious illness regardless of prognosis. It is best delivered early, and can be given along with curative treatment.


Can you have palliative care and still receive treatment that might cure your cancer?

Yes, absolutely. And, you should have it early in your illness to get the most benefit.


How do you know if you need palliative care?

If you are suffering from pain or other symptoms caused by either your disease or the side effects of treatment, ask your doctor for a palliative care referral. Symptoms of blood cancers may include pain, fatigue or low energy, cuts and bruises that take a long time to heal, bleeding from minor wounds, frequent nose bleeds, fevers or night sweats, frequent infections that are hard to fight, unexplained weight loss, achy bones and joints, depression and anxiety, among others.


Where can you get palliative care?

Palliative care can be provided in a hospital or outpatient clinic and sometimes at home. If you need palliative care, your doctor should be able to locate a team near you.


Does insurance pay for palliative care?

Most insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid, cover palliative care. If costs concern you, a social worker or financial consultant from the palliative care team can help you.


Does the patient bring it up with their doctor or is it the doctor who must suggest palliative care?

It can be either, however, you shouldn't wait for your doctor to bring it up. Most people ask their doctor for the referral to palliative care. Palliative care teams are specialists, so your primary doctor must bring in the team.


Are their specific questions you should ask your doctor about palliative care?

Tell your doctor you are considering palliative care to help with you and your family manage your symptoms and stress — for an extra layer of support. Ask what palliative services are available in your area.

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