What is Palliative Care?
Palliative care is medical care that is specifically designed for individuals diagnosed with a serious and/or life-limiting illness (Get Palliative Care, n.d.). This specialized care is delivered by a team that consists of doctors, nurses, social workers, and other specialists who work with a patient’s existing physicians in order to provide an extra layer of support. The health care professionals on the palliative care team may differ depending on the palliative care program. Palliative care emphasizes and prioritizes symptom and stress management. Instead of focusing solely on a patient’s illness, palliative care considers the needs of the patient that arise due to one’s illness including but not limited to caregiving, lifestyle changes, advance care planning, emotional support, etc. Palliative Care support also extends to a patient’s family members/caregivers (Get Palliative Care, n.d.). Lastly, a person may be eligible for palliative care services during any stage of a serious illness and is often provided when a person is receiving curative treatment. (Get Palliative Care, n.d.).
The utilization of palliative care has continued to grow since its inception in the early 1960s in the United Kingdom (Harvard Medical School, n.d.). Worldwide, about 40 million people need or could benefit from palliative care. However, only about 14 %of people who could benefit from palliative care actually receive it (World Health Organization, 2020). This can be attributed to both a lack of resources and a lack of understanding as to what palliative care can offer a patient and their family. Palliative care is a useful resource for individuals dealing with a serious illness because it can help fill in gaps that general medical care may not cover.
Benefits of Palliative Care
Palliative care can provide various benefits to both a patient and a patient’s family. Research shows that palliative care can improve the quality of life for patients with serious illnesses. In addition, the family members providing care or support to the patient can also experience an increase in their quality of life (Heath, 2016). Again, palliative care focuses on the needs of the patient, so highlighting what a patient wants while managing a serious illness can enhance their overall quality of life. In addition, palliative care can provide relief from the symptoms of the illness, including pain, nausea, and fatigue (Get Palliative Care, n.d.). Addressing these symptoms as well as the stress from managing a serious illness can help maintain a sense of normalcy in daily life and potentially minimize future hospital admissions (World Health Organization, 2020).
Additionally, palliative care can foster greater communication among everyone involved and help ensure that everyone is on the same page (Get Palliative Care, n.d.). Through an understanding of the patient’s needs and care goals, they can work with the patient’s doctors to align treatment options to these goals. This provides the patient with more say in their care planning and treatment.
Palliative Care vs. Hospice Care
It is important to understand the differences between palliative care and hospice care. While both hospice and palliative care focus on symptom management, palliative care can be used at any stage of an illness and can be used alongside curative treatment for the illness, while hospice is provided when either curative treatment is no longer helpful and often in the last six months of life (Center for Hospice Care, n.d.).
Iyashi Care is a community-based palliative care program provided through a Keiro-Providence Health & Services partnership. Established in 2017, Iyashi Care provides culturally sensitive palliative care to Japanese American and Japanese-speaking older adults with chronic and serious illnesses or life limiting symptoms – the first of its kind in the U.S.
To learn more about Iyashi Care, visit the Keiro website here.
Palliative care is a useful resource for anyone diagnosed with a serious illness or life-limiting symptoms. This specialized care provides an extra layer of support for both the patient and the patient’s family, focusing on the patient’s needs and preferences. Although often confused, hospice care and palliative care are not the same, since palliative care can be used at any stage of an illness and can be provided alongside curative treatment. Iyashi Care offers culturally-sensitive palliative care to older adults in the Japanese American and Japanese-speaking community.
Center for Hospice Care (n.d.). Hospice & Palliative Care. Retrieved from. https://www.hospicesect.org/hospice-and-palliative-care
Get Palliative Care. (n.d.). What is Palliative Care? Retrieved from https://getpalliativecare.org/whatis/
Harvard Medical School Center for Palliative Care. (n.d.). History. Retrieved from https://pallcare.hms.harvard.edu/about/history
Heath, S. (2016). Palliative Care Effective in Boosting Patient Quality of Life. Retrieved from https://patientengagementhit.com/news/palliative-care-effective-in-boosting-patient-quality-of-life
Palliative Doctors. (n.d.). A Team Approach to Hospice and Palliative Care. Retrieved from https://palliativedoctors.org/team
World Health Organization. (2020). Palliative Care. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/palliative-care