How Palliative Care Can Help You and Your Family

When it comes to living with a serious diagnosis, worsening illness, or declining health, the "best care" possible for you or your loved one may look very different from the "best care" possible for another.  This is because we each define quality of life differently.  The medical treatment plan that is most in line with your goals of care and most likely to get you to your vision of a good - or at least acceptable - quality of life may differ depending on what is most important to you at the moment.

Palliative care specialists are experts in helping patients and family members wade through overwhelming amounts and types of medical information - or sometimes, a frustrating lack of information - to help them understand the realities of their medical situations.  They gently ask the "big picture" questions to help patients and family members stay on track, get back on track, or get off the track altogether - whatever it takes - to help them achieve or maintain what is most important to them. 

Palliative care specialists usually work as a team of different disciplines to help patients and family members make the most of living each day with life altering changes in health.  In addition to communication guidance, palliative care "treatments" may include emotional, social, and spiritual support at a time when one may be struggling to come to terms with big changes with their body, health, or prognosis. Sometimes in the pursuit of slowing down a disease, specialists may place lesser priority on treating symptoms affecting quality of life.  Palliative care treatments would then include recommendations for relieving uncomfortable physical symptoms, such as pain, nausea, or shortness of breath, that may impact day to day living. 

At Real Palliative Care, I strive to provide practical and easy to understand guidance to patients and family members as they attempt to make the "right" decisions for themselves during some of the most vulnerable moments of their lives.  I encourage patients and family members to advocate for their goals as they attempt to navigate this fragmented healthcare system, and I provide actionable tips for doing so.  I hope I translate knowledge from my training, patient interactions, and lessons learned as a palliative care physician into useful insights and helpful tips for you and your family. 

To learn more specifics of exactly what a palliative care specialist does, consider starting with Post 1: What Exactly Does a Palliative Care Specialist Do?

To read specific example scenarios of when one may consider asking for a palliative care referral or consult, read Post 43: When a Palliative Care Consult Could Help - Nine Clinic/Home Visit Scenarios and Post 44: When a Palliative Care Consult Could Help - Eight Hospital Scenarios.