What Is Palliative Care

Accepting the news that you have been diagnosed with a serious and life-limiting illness is no easy task. While one option is to prolong your life with a number of available treatments — no matter what the side effects or overall effectiveness — you may be more concerned about your quality of life.

“The measure of a life is not its length, but its fullness,” says Karen Neeb, MSN, RN, ANP-BC at ProMedica Palliative Care. “Making sure your life is as full as it can be, regardless of the limitations an illness may place on it, is what palliative care is all about.”

Palliative care helps you achieve maximum comfort and fullness of life during this difficult time. This specialized care can include medical, emotional and spiritual guidance for you, as well as your family.

A trained and knowledgeable team of experts, including your doctor, nurse, chaplain, social worker, pharmacist, dietitian and other therapists work together to make sure your wishes and needs are respected. For example, your interdisciplinary team may work with you on ways to limit your fatigue, or help create a plan to experience the least amount of pain possible.

Neeb lists the many responsibilities of your palliative care team:

  • Discussing and monitoring your current symptoms.
  • Explaining treatments and disease education.
  • Making decisions about life sustaining and life-extending measures.
  • Planning for a changing or worsening of your condition.
  • Beginning advance care accommodations, including planning for a surrogate decision maker, if necessary.
  • Discussing post-hospital care.

One major advantage of palliative care is realizing you’re not alone. Having a specialized team of experts can relieve you of solely carrying the burden of a pancreatic cancer or heart disease diagnosis.

It’s also important to remember that choosing the palliative care route is not “giving up.” It can be a positive experience if you allow it. Instead of focusing on fighting for your life, palliative care emphasizes living for the things that bring you happiness.

Learn more about the basics of palliative care by watching this One Minute Wellness video: