Reframing Hope with Palliative Care
I educate patients and family members who are about to begin cancer-related treatment. Often people ask how will my body react to the treatment? How will I manage some of the symptoms of treatment? I often refer to the Palliative Care (pronounced pal-lee-uh-tiv) Consulting Service as a team of specially-trained team of doctors, nurses, social workers and other specialists who work together with a patient’s doctors to provide an extra layer of support. It is appropriate at any age and at any stage in a serious illness and can be provided along with curative treatment. The goal is to improve quality of life at any stage of cancer, regardless of active treatment.
Palliative care focuses on quality of life during treatment and beyond and includes management of:
- Nutritional needs
- Emotional concerns
- Spiritual concerns
- Family and caregiver needs
- Advanced care planning
Unfortunately, when the hope of curing cancer is no longer the goal the focus shifts to treating symptoms and keeping the cancer under control.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with an incurable cancer, you may be struggling with many decisions. You may have options to try new treatments if the first one is no longer working. You may consider stopping treatments and instead focus on improving the quality of your life without side effects from treatment.
You may be wrestling with guilty feelings for not trying any more treatment. It may appear to others that you're giving up. However, these decisions are individual choices. This is where hope needs to be reframed.
The choice to stop treatment and focus on living your life in the best way possible with the time you have remaining may be the new goal for your care.
If you or a loved one is in this situation, I hope you have heard of palliative care and hospice care. Both are meant to provide the patient and family with a focus on quality of life.
Research has shown that patients who receive palliative care report fewer symptoms, a better quality of life, and are more satisfied with their treatment plan.
Hospice care is provided to patients with more advanced disease and are expected to live six months or less.
As care transitions to the hospice model, palliative care continues with additional supportive care that likely won't include active cancer treatment. When moving into hospice care, hope is reframed again with the goals of providing comfort, peace and quality of life during the last months, weeks and days of life.
My hope is that you are all living your life in the best way possible with good quality of life, a sense of meaning and purpose, and positive emotional and spiritual well-being. If you are interested in learning more about palliative care and how it can help you, please have the conversation with your care provider.
How have you or a loved one experienced palliative care?