By Beth Cooper Ingle, CSA, Certified Senior Advisor
The phone rings and your heart speeds up at the news: Your mom has just been diagnosed with a chronic and painful disease. You know that there are many decisions to be made and that your mom and family will need information and support. This is more than just a medical condition. It will affect her quality of life and require the ongoing involvement of your family. Who do you ask for help? Where do you start? What options may you have?
One possibility may be to consult with her primary care physician to ask about palliative care. The Mayo Clinic defines Palliative Care as specialized medical care that focuses on supplying relief from pain and other symptoms of a serious illness. It also can help you cope with side effects from medical treatments. Palliative Care is provided by a team of healthcare professionals, including doctors, nurses, social workers, and chaplains who are trained to add an extra layer of support and relief for you and your family during this challenging time.
Palliative care may be offered to adults and children suffering from serious or life-threatening illnesses such as cancer, blood and bone marrow disease, heart disease, dementia, cystic fibrosis, and kidney failure just to name a few. The goal of palliative care is to improve symptoms of pain, nausea or vomiting, anxiety, depression, difficulty breathing, or loss of appetite.
So how is this done, you might ask? First, you should schedule an appointment with a Palliative care team. Your doctor or hospital, if you are in the hospital when you receive the news, can connect you with a care team. Research shows that early use of palliative services can improve the quality of life for someone with a serious illness and in some cases, extend survival. It is also beneficial for their families. At the time of the consultation, it would be helpful to share with the care team your concerns, ask questions about treatment options, and address concerns about your spiritual well-being and that of your family.
After the consultation, your care team will design a plan that fits your needs. This may include steps to address your symptoms, and improve your comfort level and well-being. They will also be to talk about your stress levels, answer financial questions, aid with spiritual needs and end-of-life planning. Your care team may also refer you to other care providers, if needed, to address nutrition, pain, or other integrative medicine.
Most insurance companies (including Medicare and Medicaid) will cover much of palliative care services. Be sure to confirm your insurance benefits with your insurance company, Medicare, or Medicaid.
Often, people wait too long to ask for comfort. In fact, many people also wait too long to talk about palliative care, including hospice. Palliative care and the subcomponent, hospice, are not just for the last several days of life. Palliative care can be a year or two before one might pass and hospice six months prior, sometimes longer. Being diagnosed with a serious or chronic illness is scary. Not knowing who to turn to can be even scarier. Ask the tough questions of your doctors or care providers.
For more information, contact Living By Your Design, Inc. We focus on the issues of the elderly: legal, financial, guidance for residential placement, and related healthcare issues. As a FREE Placement service, Living by Your Design can help match your needs and wishes with available Communities in the area. We are located at 809 W. Detweiller Dr, Suite 809, Peoria IL 61615 309-285-8088 or visit our website www.LivingByYourDesignInc.com.