November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month. The theme for this year 2019 is “It’s about how you Live.” During this time, organizations around the country will host activities and events to raise awareness of the importance of hospice care and palliative care. The National Hospice and Palliative Care Association also want people to know that this kind of care offers financial benefits to families as it is financed by Medicare, Medicaid, private long-term care insurance companies and the Department of Veteran Affairs. More than anything they want to raise awareness that there is help for people facing the end-of-life and for their families.
Hospice Care is Part of End-of-Life Care
Hospice Care is Part of End-of Life Care. Hospice care is special high-quality care that helps patients and their families to focus on living as full a life as possible in spite of having an illness that will lead to the end of life.
Hospice Care in the United States
According to Edo Banach, the president and CEO of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, nearly 1.4 million people living with a a terminal illness receive care from hospices in the United States. “These highly trained professionals ensure that patients and families find dignity, respect and love during life’s most difficult journey.”
Palliative care is extra care that is given alongside medical curative treatment for very serious illnesses. Palliative care is given for as long as possible no matter what the prognosis is. Palliative care can be given at the beginning or at any stage of a serious illness. In fact, palliative care can be started as soon as there is a diagnosis of a serious disease or immediately after a surgical operation.
Serious Diseases that can Receive Palliative Care along with Medical Curative Treatment
According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), serious diseases that can receive palliative care along with curative treatment are:
- Parkinson’s disease
- Advanced dementia
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Amyloid lateral sclerosis (ALS) also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease
- Heart failure
- Kidney failure
- Liver failure
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
The Palliative Care ConsultationTeam
The Palliative Care consultation team is made up of several kinds of medical specialists. These medical specialists all work together with the patient’s doctors who are treating the illness. These medical specialists are:
- Social workers
- Occupational therapists
Aim of the Palliative Care Team
The aim of the palliative care team is to help relieve symptoms a patient is experiencing and to improve the quality of life for a person who is under treatment for a serious disease. Palliative care can also help patients understand what medical treatment options are available for them. The palliative care team provides medical, practical and emotional support to patients, their families and their doctors. Palliative Care can be provided in skilled nursing and rehabilitation facilities, at the patient’s home or in hospitals. The palliative care team can provide treatment for symptoms and conditions such as:
- Sleep disorders
- Breathing difficulties like shortness of breath
- Relief from stress, anxiety and depression
Palliative Care in a Long-term Skilled Nursing Care Facility
Patients and their families can decide where to have palliative care. Depending on the condition of the patient and the type of treatment they need, they may decide that a skilled nursing care facility is the best option. However, in cases where a patient is suffering from advanced dementia, only the patient’s family can make the decision to go to a skilled nursing facility.
Moving from Palliative care to Hospice Care or Comfort Care
There may come a time when the doctors see that their treatment is not working to cure or slow down the progress of the disease. They decide that further treatment for the illness is not going to help and believe the patient will probably die within six months. In some cases the treatment not only is not working, but it may have very bad side effects leading to unnecessary suffering. In this case palliative care can be switched to hospice care or the palliative care team may continue with their treatment, but will focus more on comfort care.
A Patient Enters Hospice Care When Treatment is not Curing or Slowing down the Progress of a Disease
When a person enters hospice care they understand it is because the treatment they have been receiving is not curing the disease or slowing it down. Hospice care is not given alongside any kind of curative treatment, although a person may decide to leave hospice care and return to palliative care. While only the curative treatment for the illness is stopped, the patient may continue to receive medication for pain, blood pressure lowering drugs, anti-anxiety medicines, anti-depressant drugs, etc. In other words, if chemotherapy for cancer is discontinued, the patient can still have medication for relieving symptoms. Also, if someone does not die within the six month period, they can still remain in the hospice. Hospice care can be carried out at home, in a hospital, at an assisted living facility, at a hospice center or in a skilled nursing care facility.
Palliative and Hospice Care at the Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Syracuse, New York
The Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Syracuse, New York offers long-term skilled nursing care at its best 24 hours a day. Palliative care at the hands of an expert team and hospice care are also available to help you and your loved one at the end-of-life.
It is good to begin palliative care as soon as possible once a diagnosis of a serious disease has taken place.