5 Fast Facts: Palliative Care

 In Enrichment

If you or a loved one is facing a difficult diagnosis, you may have been introduced to the idea of palliative care. Having questions about what this or any other end-of-life treatment entails is par for the course. It’s why, alongside our work caring for the elders on campus, we try to provide information and educational resources for families about how this process works. So, in the interest of offering a crash course on this particular topic, here are five fast facts about palliative care.

5 Fast Facts: Palliative Care

1. Palliative Care is about Symptom Management

The first thing to know is that palliative care can be a remarkably long, fulfilling, and rich journey. We’re typically not talking about a one-month-to-live scenario here. The goal of a palliative care plan is to help someone continue living the life they love with minimal adjustments to the autonomy and independence they’re used to. Palliative care is essentially the intersection between accepting an unfavorable diagnosis and consciously integrating its management into our lifestyles.

2. It Follows a Terminal Diagnosis

When should someone be offered palliative care? Generally, it should be offered after someone receives a diagnosis that is determined to be fatal but isn’t currently life threatening. At this point, palliative care will function to support a comfortable lifestyle living with the disease without uprooting one’s entire world.

Seniors receiving palliative care are often still able to participate in community events, family functions, and other life-affirming activities. Oftentimes, care professionals will simply make occasional visits and provide medical reviews to help monitor the progress of the disease.

3. Palliative Care Can Be Helpful For the Whole Family

The emotional support and dedicated focus afforded to the elder are some benefits of palliative care to be sure. However, it also provides an early opportunity for both the family to come to terms with their loved one’s diagnosis prior to hospice and begin preparing for where it will lead, however far away the end of that journey may be. Palliative treatment gives families the opportunity to come alongside their loved one and continue enjoying and celebrating their life to the fullest, despite the ultimately terminal diagnosis.

An older man in a wheelchair raises a fist and holds a red pool noodle in his other hand.

4. There’s a Difference Between Hospice and Palliative Care

Hospice and palliative care are related, but they actually point to separate points along the treatment journey of a terminal illness. So, what is the difference between hospice and palliative care? It comes down to timing, severity, and a quality of life decision.

What is Palliative Care vs. Hospice Care?

The first thing to understand is that it isn’t actually “palliative care vs hospice care.” Each form of care serves its unique purpose in a comprehensive end-of-life treatment plan. So, what’s the difference between them?

We know that palliative care aims to maintain relative independence and comfort. Similarly, hospice care focuses on comfort; it just removes the emphasis on independence. At this point, quality of life will have become more of an uphill battle for the senior. Vitals may have begun changing, perhaps dementia or other cognitive compromise has set in — in short, the approach of simply managing the illness is no longer possible. When admitted into hospice, it may be recommended that a senior’s life-sustaining medications be discontinued and comfort medications increased. For those who desire it, the frequency of visits from social workers, chaplains, and the like may increase along with more nursing and personal care support.

5. There are 5 Stages of Palliative Care

It can be helpful to think in terms of the different stages of end of life treatment. The 5 stages of palliative care can be broken down in slightly different ways, but it basically falls into these categories (Elder):

  1. Form a palliative care plan
  2. Work with someone (therapist, pastor, care staff) to emotionally prepare for what lies ahead
  3. Begin initial treatment that lets you keep doing your normal activities with minor care adjustments (visits from a nurse, home safety equipment, etc.)
  4. Transition into late stage treatment in a home, hospice, or with a live-in medical professional
  5. Loved ones benefit from bereavement counseling

How Does the Transition From Palliative Care to Hospice Looks at The Ohio Eastern Star Home?

Since OESH provides direct palliative support prior to seniors entering a hospice facility, we aim to make the process as smooth as possible for elders and families. Our palliative care team, which includes a physician, certified nurse practitioner (CNP), and additional nursing staff, see to the comfort and care of each on-campus palliative patient right up until their transition into a full-time hospice setting. Throughout their palliative care, our staff physician and CNP make care recommendations for the nursing staff who closely monitor each patient’s disease and report any changes. The experience and empathy that our team operates with is underscored by the fact that our CNP also works in the hospice field and has a wonderful understanding of end-of-life services. When the time comes that the physician or CNP must recommend hospice, our elders have been prepared for this transition with calm compassion, comfort, and love.

Questions About Palliative Care Services?

From understanding hospice transition decisions to navigating the 5 stages of palliative care, our team is here to serve as both a service and a resource. Please feel free at any time to give us a call at (740) 397-1706 or send us a message.