Palliative care is a combination of specialized medical care and personal attention that focuses on relieving the symptoms, pain and stress of a serious illness. This extra layer of care can benefit people of any age, with a wide range of conditions.
For example, palliative care is often helpful for people suffering from cancer, heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), kidney disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), among many others.
Palliative care complements the treatments and medications being used to cure or minimize the effects of a serious condition. During a time of intense or prolonged medical treatments and disease symptoms, palliative care is designed to help you remain as active and comfortable as possible.
Our team of doctors, nurses and other specialists works side-by-side with your doctors and disease specialists. We will take the time to learn about your wishes and needs, and explain your treatment options. This puts you in greater control of your care.
Your palliative care team may include:
Our goal is to improve quality of life for you, your family and others assisting in your care by tending to the whole person – body, mind and spirit.
For the body, palliative care treats the pain and physical symptoms a disease and its treatments cause. This includes shortness of breath, fatigue, constipation, nausea, loss of appetite and difficulty sleeping. In addition to hands-on medical care, we also provide education for patients and caregivers about a disease and the medications, medical devices and diet used to treat the condition.
For the mind, palliative care addresses feelings of anxiety, depression and despair with emotional support and counseling. This also includes services to address caregiver mental and physical fatigue.
For the spirit, our team includes pastoral care counselors who can help you and your loved ones connect with your spiritual and religious beliefs to promote healing and provide comfort.
Palliative care can begin any time that you and your doctor decide that an extra layer of support would be helpful. We can see you in the hospital or in one of our outpatient clinics.
Palliative care is a medical specialty that is covered in the same way as other medical services, such as cardiology. Most insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid, cover all or part of palliative care.
Hospice focuses on the needs of patients who are in the end stages of life – where efforts to cure a condition are no longer effective or wanted.
Palliative care, on the other hand, is effective when doctors and patients are actively treating an illness that is serious or even incurable, but not necessarily life-threatening in the short term. For example, palliative care might help a patient with heart failure by treating shortness of breath, or helping a cancer patient with fatigue and pain.
If you or a loved one has a serious illness, you should know that Mercy has a support team to help. Begin by talking with your doctor. We will work with your physician to help you navigate the many important decisions you may face and the comfort and support our palliative team can provide.
Palliative care makes life better for patients and families, as highlighted by the kind words of previous Mercy patients and their loved ones:
“Palliative care provided kind counseling in preparing our hearts and minds. You provided clarity for me, especially in my struggle to carry out Mom’s wishes.”
“The complete commitment to bring him comfort with his consuming pain and the ability to bring him relief was made possible by palliative care.”
“You provided the support that was needed in the hardest time of my dad’s life and also in mine.”
“You are instrumental in caring for the whole person, and you maintained our loved one’s dignity.”
“Thanks for your expertise, kindness and patience with care. Your willingness to help and give supportive advice has been a blessing to each of us.”