What Is Palliative Care?
Palliative care assists patients and families in making complex health decisions and maintaining control over their medical care. Palliative medicine is offered to patients who are diagnosed with a life-limiting disease such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cancer, dementia or severe heart disease. It is also recommended for patients who have experienced a serious medical event such as heart attack, respiratory failure or stroke. Palliative care is given regardless of the stage of disease or the need for other therapies and can be provided concurrently with life-prolonging care or as the main focus of care.
Palliative medicine at Franciscan Health gives patients pain and symptom management for an improved quality of life. We also assist patients and their family members in making important decisions about medical care and end-of-life issues that reflect their wishes and values.
Palliative Care is both a philosophy of care and an organized system of caring for our patients. It is appropriate for anyone, of any age, who has a serious illness. The goal of palliative care is to relieve suffering and provide the best possible quality of life for people facing the pain, symptoms and stresses of serious illness. It can be provided along with treatments that are meant to cure.
What does the Palliative Care team do?
The Palliative Care team focuses on quality of life and comfort measures, such as pain medication and comfort foods. They can help with pain management, advanced directives and offer support to the patient and family.
The palliative medicine care team strives to meet these objectives:
- Provide patients and their families with better understanding of their condition and choices for care and assistance.
- Offer relief and treatment for distressing symptoms such as pain, nausea, shortness of breath, extreme tiredness, constipation and difficulty sleeping.
- Assist with finding care after a hospital stay.
- Integrate emotional, psychological and spiritual support for the patient and family.
- Help with advance care planning, establishing patient and family goals and difficult decision making.
- Help with understanding and finding resources in the health care system.
- Assist with decisions to start or stop treatments.
When Does Someone Need Palliative Care?
Palliative Care at Franciscan Health is offered when patients are facing life-limiting conditions. Palliative Care is often provided when treatment moves from cure-focused to comfort-focused treatment, but in some cases Palliative Care can be provided along with treatments that are meant to cure.
What is the difference between Palliative Care and Hospice Care?
Patients often confuse palliative care with hospice care. Hospice care begins only after the patient is diagnosed as terminally ill. It is intended to help them have the best possible quality of life when it has been determined that nothing can be done medically to cure their illness. Hospice Care can begin once someone has been diagnosed as terminally ill and has decided to stop medical treatment that is intended to cure illness or extend life, through signing a "do not resuscitate," or DNR order.
Palliative Care on the other hand doesn't wait until a terminal diagnosis. It can begin in the hospital and can be provided along with medical treatments that are meant to cure illness or extend life. Someone can receive Palliative Care services before advance directives are established.
When you or a loved one has a hospital stay, you may hear medical terminology that can be confusing. Below are some terms that you may hear when working with a Palliative Care team.
What Are Comfort Measures?
Comfot measures typically refer to treatment aimed at prioritizing quality of life and making someone as comfortable as possible.
Cure-focused medical treatment can include things like antibiotics and surgery. Its goal is to extend life and/or cure an illness or condition.
Comfort-focused care will be centered around improving the quality of life until a patient naturally passes. Comfort measures include pain management, comfort foods and spiritual and emotional supports.
What Does A DNR Order Mean?
A "Do Not Resuscitate" or DNR order is a document that is typically signed when the patient care plan shifts from cure-focused medical treatment to comfort-focused treatment.
Advance directives are documents that one can sign to let people know how they would like to be cared for if they are ever not able to make those decisions for themselves.
It is suggested that all adults over the age of eighteen have considered and signed advance directives, so that family members do not have to make end-of-life decisions for their loved ones.
Franciscan Health follows the Catholic Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Healthcare Services.