Think about living well, in spite of illness.
It’s about medical treatment that’s in line with your personal goals and values. It’s about maintaining hope and living as fully as possible.
What is palliative care?
Palliative care is a medical specialty that focuses on caring for the whole person – meeting the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of people with a serious illness, a life-threatening injury or other medical conditions. The goal of palliative care is to reduce suffering, preserve dignity and improve quality of life for patients and their families.
Not to be confused with hospice, palliative care is the broader umbrella of helping patients cope with illness throughout their treatment, regardless of age or life expectancy. Hospice care, on the other hand, is provided to people who are nearing the end of their lives.
To ensure that patients have the best possible quality of life, palliative care focuses on:
- Reducing symptoms caused by disease as well as its treatment
- Supporting patients and families in the medical and emotional journey
- Creating a plan of care that meets the needs and reflects the values of the patient
Who is it for?
Whether a person has just been diagnosed with an illness, is in active treatment, has completed therapy or is nearing the end of life, palliative care can make a world of difference in meeting the goal to live well.
It is useful at any age and for any long-term medical condition. It is especially helpful with a serious, life-threatening illness such as cancer, AIDS, liver or kidney problems, heart failure, advanced lung disease, neurological disease or dementia.
What can it do for me and my family?
Accepting palliative care treatment will:
- Help reduce pain and other symptoms such as nausea, fatigue, breathlessness, depression, anxiety or other distressing symptoms
- Assist you in making difficult medical decisions
- Provide guidance on family issues, such as difficult communications or coping with the stress of serious illness, including how to
St. Mary’s Palliative Consultation Service includes a physician specialist, a nurse-practitioner, a social worker and you and your loved ones. Chaplains, pharmacists, nurses, care coordinators and other health professionals work closely with the palliative care team.
We begin by meeting with you, your family and your doctor to assess your needs and develop a plan that respects your values and treatment preferences. We do not make treatment decisions for you, but we can make recommendations that are based on your situation and goals. Together, we create a one-of-a-kind approach that includes what matters most to you.
Working with your palliative care team, you’ll gain:
- Counseling and coordination of care with other health care providers, including your primary doctor, hospitalists and specialists such as oncologists, surgeons and cardiologists
- Assistance with insurance forms and advance directive documents that reflect your health care wishes.
- Spiritual care and support for people of all faiths and beliefs
- Social work and advocacy services that will help with planning for your care in the future, whether it’s at home, in a hospital, at an assisted living residence or in a hospice facility
Your regular doctor will continue to be in charge of your care, relying on input from your palliative care team.
For more information
While this overview offers a glimpse into St. Mary’s Palliative Care Service, it cannot take the place of open discussions with your health care team. For help with living a life full of meaning and hope amid illness, please contact a team member at 608-446-6920.
Lucille Marchand, MD, BSN