Reframing hope with palliative care

Posted by Sheryl M Ness, MA, RN @smness, Nov 30, 2015

Let’s talk talk about the idea of reframing hope when curing cancer is no longer the goal. We all hope for a cure, we hope for the best possible outcome. However, there may be a time when curing the cancer is no longer the goal, but instead, the focus is on treating your symptoms and keeping the cancer under control.

If you’re a patient who has been diagnosed with an incurable cancer, you may be struggling with decisions. You may have options to try new treatments if the first one is no longer working. Or, you may be considering not having further treatment.

You may feel guilty about not trying more treatment as it may seem to others that you’re giving up. However, we should look at these decisions as 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’ve heard the terms palliative care and hospice care. Both are meant to provide the patient and family with a focus on quality of life.

Palliative care refers to medical care focused on relieving pain and other symptoms of the cancer or treatment side effects. The goal is to improve quality of life at any stage of cancer, regardless of active treatment.

Research has shown that patients who have palliative care report fewer symptoms, a better quality of life and are more satisfied with their treatment plan.

Palliative care focuses on quality of life during treatment and beyond, and includes management of:

  • Pain
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Nutritional needs
  • Emotional concerns
  • Spiritual concerns
  • Family and caregiver needs
  • Advanced care planning

Sometimes palliative care and hospice care get confused. Hospice care is a specific type of palliative care provided to patients with more advanced cancer who are expected to live six months or less.

As care transitions to the hospice model, palliative care continues with additional supportive care that may not include active cancer treatment. With hospice care, hope is reframed again with the goals of providing comfort, peace and quality of life during the last days, weeks and months of life.

My hope is that you’re 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’re interested in learning more about palliative care and how it can help you, please have the conversation with your care provider.

Please share with others on the blog how you or a loved one have experienced palliative care.

Read more on the Living with Cancer blog here


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