When Should Someone Be Offered Palliative Care

Making big healthcare decisions – like going into palliative care – are hard to do for someone else, especially when it’s a loved one where it may be very emotionally hard on the family to see their family member go into palliative care.

When Should Someone Be Offered Palliative Care

This kind of care, though, should be shied away from just because it’s hard to talk about. Palliative care, with the right team, can be really effective in managing the suffering, pain and emotional stress of someone living with a chronic or terminal illness.

In addition to that, it can offer much needed respite for the family members or friends who are constantly taking care of their loved one – without anytime for themselves.

Before we start talking about when it’s the right time to talk to someone about palliative care, it’s important to understand exactly what this kind of care is and what it involves for the person going into it.

What Palliative Care Is Not

More often than not, palliative care is used as an interchangeable term with end-of-life care. However, this kind of care is actually not meant for those who are facing the last phase of their life – that would be hospice care.

While they do have similar qualities and sometimes similar approaches for the best care of the patient, they are actually not the same thing so it’s important to make sure you keep that in mind.

What Palliative Care Is

A patient doesn’t have to be dying, and going into palliative care doesn’t mean that a person won’t get better or live a very long time after. While some patients will receive palliative care as part of their end-of-life care plan, absolutely, but it will often be in conjunction with other kinds of treatments or therapies.

nurse taking record on male partient

People may receive palliative care at any part of their illness – even if it’s only short-term. Many people may go into a palliative care situation when recovering from a big surgery, especially if they do not have someone at home to help them full time.

Some illnesses are terminal, and you will want to make sure you enjoy the most of the time you have left. This is where palliative care can really help, and you – and your loved ones – don’t have to worry about the smaller day to day things but rather truly make the most of your time.

 

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So, When Do You Know If It’s Time For Palliative Care?

The upside here is that there really isn’t a set time someone can enter into palliative care. This kind of care can be provided at any stage of an illness, even as early as right after you receive your diagnosis.

If managing day to day activities is becoming unbearable, or you just need more help than your family can really offer it may be time to consider palliative care.

When you start to think that this kind of care is becoming a reality for you, the sooner you start the process the better it will be for you. The reason for this? Well, it can take a little bit of time to actually get a referral into a palliative care program as you have to start by talking to your GP.

On top of that, the palliative care team will take a holistic approach to the health of the patient in their care so this means they may suggest therapies or treatments you have never experienced or even thought of.

Who Provides The Palliative care?

Palliative care can be provided by a number of healthcare professionals, including doctors and nurses. Once the referral has been made for an individual to enter into palliative care, the healthcare team will assess where someone is and what would be best for their care.

They will look at a number of factors, including pain relief, emotional and even spiritual needs. The care team might also include therapists, social workers and even spiritual care providers. The way that this care is provided is very much up to the patient and what will make them the most comfortable.

 

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Where Does Someone Receive The Palliative Care?

This is also another part of the care that will be different depending on the person. If the patient is in the hospital, and cannot go home for any number of reasons, then they may only receive the palliative care in the hospital.

female patient on palliative care

Other people feel better – and more comfortable – when they are in their own home. They may feel better sleeping in their own bed and being surrounded by their family, trying to live what would be a regular day to day life for them.

If someone is at home, receiving palliative care, they may have a homecare working or a nurse that comes to see them and check in on how they’re doing.

This kind of set up happens most often when someone is incorporating palliative care into their end-of-life care plan because they want to die at home, where they are comfortable – not in a hospital bed, surrounded by people they don’t really know in a setting they don’t really like.

Why Is Therapy Or Religious Support Included In Palliative Care?

Many times, when someone is living with a chronic or terminal illness, they can have a hard time grasping what this will mean for their life. They may also just want to vent to someone about what they are feeling.

Therapists can help someone work through their feelings about the situation they are in, and they can even help someone to talk to their families about preparing for what might be coming.

In addition to that, many people who have been faced with a chronic or terminal illness have reported that they find comfort in spiritual guidance and support. There are many religious groups that offer care and services to both those in palliative care and their families as this can be a really challenging time for everyone.

 

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Palliative Care Doesn’t Have To Be Permanent

Some people have the notion that once their family member goes into palliative care they are basically handing over this family member to the care of a medical team, and walking away.

This is definitely not the truth, or even close to it. Palliative care can be once or twice a week, in the form of a check up, or it may be care for a weekend while family members just take a little break from caring for their loved one.

When preparing a palliative care plan, the team will look at the person as a whole and determine what they need the most and how this kind of care can most benefit them.

 

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So, When Is It Time for Someone To Go Into Palliative Care?

The answer to this is very hard to narrow down to a formula or a set of requirements. Now, there will be a checklist for most care programs that a patient will have to meet so that they are eligible for a palliative care program.

There are some general guidelines you can follow to determine if it’s time for someone to go into a palliative care program.

Struggling With Day-To-Day Tasks

If the pain or discomfort being caused by the illness someone is facing makes it difficult for them to care for themselves on a daily basis (including getting dressed, bathing, making meals, etc) then it might be time to consider talking to your doctor about how palliative care can help.

nurse with bedridden elderly

Unmanageable Pain

With certain illnesses, someone will experience gradual pain and eventually that pain may not be manageable with the treatments or medications they currently have.

With palliative care, doctors may be able to review the pain management plan someone has and make changes so that someone can be more comfortable. This is especially important so that the person living with this illness gets the most out of their time and isn’t just spending their days in pain.

 

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This Is Going To Be A Hard Time

Watching your loved one get worse with their condition is going to be hard, for anyone. This time in your loved ones life is going to be very hard for you as no one wants to watch someone they love be in pain and know that there’s nothing you can do about it.

The care plan developed for your loved one will be made to make sure that they are comfortable and not in any pain while in palliative care. This may be part of an end-of-life care plan, but it may not be either.

This could be help for your loved one who has had major surgery and just needs some help being cared for. Going into palliative care doesn’t mean that your loved is going to die, so keep that in mind.

Making this decision for someone you love is really taking their needs and wants and making those the most important thing. It won’t be an easy choice for you to talk to them about it, or even have a doctor approach you about considering the decision, but you really do need to consider what is best for them.

If you are thinking it might be the right time for your loved one to consider other kinds of care, or maybe bringing in some help to make your family member comfortable, then it’s probably time to start talking to their doctor about the options.

About Estephanie Jill

Estephanie Jill (EJBP, BSPT, PTRP) is a licensed physiotherapist. She is a home health care provider, laboratory technician for physical therapy students, medical transcriptionist, and an advocate of the physiotherapy profession. Apart from that, she loves writing. Playing to her strengths, she mainly writes around health and fitness, She has been commended for her writing in the past. Her other passions include commenting on societal changes and writing life reflective pieces. She enjoys meaningful conversations, and detaching from the digital world to do yoga and meditation. She is a self-confessed foodie who enjoys eating for the experience and then burning it all off through exercise.