When we think about receiving medical care, it typically involves treatment for specific physical or mental symptoms. But those who have a serious illness can often benefit from a different type of care—palliative care.
You may have heard about palliative care in the same conversation with hospice. At Northeast Georgia Health System, in fact, in-home palliative care services are offered through our hospice program.
While the two types of care are often connected, they are not the same. Palliative care provides an all-encompassing type of care that helps to improve quality of life for patients and their loved ones.
Unlike hospice care, in-home palliative care isn’t reserved for those at the end of life. Anyone at any stage of a serious illness can receive this type of care.
How does palliative care work?
Palliative care is a type of care that focuses not only on the symptoms caused by an illness but also on the stress caused by simply facing an illness. Through in-home palliative care services, patients can receive treatment to relieve symptoms of a disease along with those that may occur under the strain of dealing with a serious, life-limiting disease, such as anxiety, depression, a loss of appetite, fatigue, and difficulties sleeping.
When you’ve been diagnosed with a serious medical condition, it affects you on every level—physically, mentally, and emotionally. It also affects your loved ones and your relationships with them.
Palliative care takes all of that into consideration. A team of dedicated providers works alongside your existing care team to ensure your treatment is in line with your goals and benefits your quality of life. These providers, including physicians, nurse practitioners, chaplains, and social workers, can care for all aspects of a person’s mind, body, and soul.
In-home palliative care specifically brings these services to the patient, allowing him or her to receive care in the comfort of home. This is especially beneficial when a medical condition affects mobility or it’s simply tiring to leave the home for care.
Services are multifaceted and designed to care for the needs of the patient, rather than his or her prognosis. In-home palliative care providers can treat symptoms, help patients and their families understand diagnoses and treatment options, assist with making medical decisions as needed, and connect patients and their families with support services, both within the health system and in the community.
How is palliative care different from hospice?
As we mentioned above, the two distinct services are often mentioned in conjunction with each other. Hospice is designed to provide specialized care for patients at the end of life, with a life expectancy of six months or less.
Patients who receive hospice care receive treatment to alleviate symptoms, but they do not receive treatment with the goal of a cure. For example, a patient with cancer who moves to hospice care has decided to forgo additional curative treatment and simply receive care that provides symptom management and quality of life.
In-home palliative care, on the other hand, can provide both curative treatment and treatment to alleviate symptoms. Patients who receive this type of care do not need to be at the end of life—palliative care can be beneficial for patients of any age and at any stage of a serious, life-limiting condition.
Think of it this way: Palliative comes from the Latin word “palliare,” which means “to cloak.” Palliative care is designed to cloak a patient in all types of care that can help treat a serious medical condition, provide comfort and support while facing that medical condition, and improve quality of life.
Who can benefit from palliative care?
The short answer is: More people than are currently receiving it. According to the World Health Organization, around 57 million people worldwide could benefit from palliative care services, but only around 14% of that number actually get the care they need.
Changing that would benefit healthcare in general and help provide relief and support for many patients and their families.
The benefits are tangible. Research shows that patients who receive palliative care have a longer life expectancy, a lower risk of anxiety and depression, improved mood, and a renewed quality of life and satisfaction.
In-home palliative care through Northeast Georgia Health System is designed to improve quality of life for patients and provide support for both patients and their families. Believe a loved one could benefit? Call 770-219-8888 or visit www.nghs.com/in-home-palliative-care for more information