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WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Palliative care is specialized healthcare for a person who has a chronic or life-threatening condition. The primary goal of palliative care is to relieve the pain, suffering, and stress that the person and his family may be feeling. Other goals are to improve the person's quality of life in physical, mental, social, emotional, and spiritual ways. Palliative care also includes support for family members or others who are caring for the person. A group of trained caregivers work together to provide palliative care. These caregivers include doctors, nurses, home health aides, social workers, chaplains (spiritual counselors), therapists, and volunteers. Palliative care may take place in a hospital, health care center, or the patient's home. It may last until the person's condition improves or until the end of his life.
Follow up with palliative care providers as directed:
The following palliative care services may be recommended for the patient, family, friends, or caregivers:
- Physical care is given to help ease the patient's symptoms, such as pain. This may be done using medicines or certain therapies.
- Emotional and psychological support is provided to help the patient, his family, and those close to him cope with their feelings and emotions. Patients and families may join support groups or meet others in similar situations.
- Social support helps patients manage changes affecting their everyday life. Healthcare workers will arrange services to address financial concerns, relationship changes, and practical concerns such as meals.
- Spiritual or cultural support considers the person's and family's religious beliefs and cultural practices. These may include doing a special ceremony or ritual, or following certain traditions.
Support the patient:
- Keep him company. Always be willing to listen to the patient. Do things together such as watching television and reading books, or just stay with him.
- Learn more about his condition. This can help you better understand what he is going through. Many people want to be included in their treatment and care plan. Do not keep information from the patient. Work with caregivers and others to help the patient understand his condition and make decisions about his care.
- Respect his feelings and need for privacy. Work together with people whom the patient can trust to help him cope with his feelings. Let him express fears and concerns. Reassure the patient that you will follow and honor his advance directives, such as living wills.
Contact his palliative care provider if:
- The patient cannot or does not want to eat, drink, or take his medicine.
- The patient cannot make it to his next visit.
- The patient has new signs and symptoms since his last visit.
- You or the patient have questions or concerns about his condition or care.
Return to the emergency department if:
- The patient feels like hurting himself or someone else.
- The patient feels pain that is not relieved by taking pain medicine.
- The patient feels that he cannot cope with his condition.
- The patient has problems sleeping.
- The patient has shortness of breath, chest pain, or a fast heartbeat.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.