Palliative care: when home care isn't enough

What are your options when caring for a parent whose needs exceed the extent of home care, but do not meet the criteria for hospice? Caring for a loved one with a chronic illness can be overwhelming and raise many questions. Concerns may include who will care for your loved one, what living with a long-term chronic illness looks like, as well as where your loved one will receive his or her treatment. Palliative care is an option that puts patients with advanced illnesses at the center of their ongoing treatment. For those with chronic illnesses, palliative care may be a beneficial treatment option.

palliative care and hospice careA palliative care program gives patients and their families resources to help make decisions about treatment options, navigate the complexities of modern health care, improve the patient's quality of life, and ultimately gives patients control over the type of treatment they receive. Palliative care is built around the concept of providing health care to the patient at home, reducing the inconvenience of scheduling and traveling between multiple physician offices.

Palliative care can be beneficial to patients with long-term chronic illnesses, but is often confused with hospice care. Even though palliative care shares some characteristics with hospice care such emphasizing quality of life and being provided at home, the two treatments are not the same. Palliative care focuses on relieving symptoms related to illness, and can be performed in conjunction with curative treatments such as chemotherapy. Hospice care involves a terminal illness in which curative measures are either no longer an option or no longer desired by the patient.

Comprised of a multidisciplinary team, a palliative care plan includes the patient's primary care physician, a nurse practitioner, and social workers specializing in pain management. Cindy Tomlinson, vice president of hospice, shares one specific benefit of palliative care: "Our nurse practitioners are also known as health care navigators because they guide patients and help them identify the services they need. They act as the liaison between patient and primary care physician." Navigating a complex health care system can be daunting, but with the help of our palliative care team, you have the support you need to make well-informed decisions.

Patients with chronic illness typically face a higher risk of readmittance to the hospital. "Palliative care nurse practitioners proactively help identify health warnings for patients to catch the issue and get the patient additional help before it becomes a larger issue," Tomlinson explains. "This prevents patients from going back and forth to the emergency room. We have a dedicated home health care team, hospice team, and are tied into our McLaren hospitals, ensuring our palliative care program really is part of the continuum of care for our patients."

For more information on our palliative care program, or to see if you or a loved one qualify for palliative care, call (866) 323-5974.