What is palliative care? Palliative care is not meant to cure patients or help them live longer. “To palliate” means to relieve. This special type of care focuses on easing a patient’s suffering, whether it is physical, psychological, emotional or spiritual.
Also, because patients can have several challenges beyond physical discomfort, a whole team of professionals coordinates palliative care. The team may include a patient’s doctors, nurses, pharmacist, allied health therapists (to help a patient breathe, get around, speak, etc), and nutritionist. Counselors may help both patients and families prepare psychologically and emotionally for their eventual loss. Religious leaders (priests, ministers, rabbis, imams) can help those want to talk about faith, God, or the complex spiritual questions that arise near a loved one’s death.
The team works with the patient and their family so everyone knows what to expect as the patient’s illness moves forward.
What if our loved one does not want treatment anymore? It is up to your loved one. If the fight against illness has been long and hard, your loved one may simply be too tired to go on with treatments. Treatment symptoms, especially with strong drugs, can make people feel worse than the illness by itself. It is time for a very frank talk with your loved one’s doctor. Find out what the treatment options are, and what the benefits will be. Most important, will your loved one have a better quality of life? And remember: Even if you or other family members want treatment to continue, the final say is up to your loved one.