Palliative care seeks to improve the quality of life for patients facing serious illnesses by helping with a variety of areas, such as alleviation of physical symptoms or emotional assistance. Support is provided by a focus on expert symptom management and developing an understanding of care from the patient’s perspective.
When a patient undergoes treatment for a serious illness, such as cancer, life can often be disrupted by the physical, emotional, and psychological side effects of treatment. Palliative care seeks to improve the quality of life for patients facing serious illnesses by helping with a variety of areas, such as alleviation of physical symptoms or emotional assistance. Support is provided by a focus on expert symptom management and developing an understanding of care from the patient’s perspective.
It is important to remember that palliative care is not the same as hospice care. Although hospice care employs palliative care methods of symptom alleviation, hospice specifically is end-of-life treatment intended for those with six or less months to live. Palliative care consultation is appropriate for patients in all stages of cancer treatment, starting from the time of diagnosis. It is often provided while patients are receiving curative chemotherapy. The aim is to provide an extra layer of support to patients as they deal with the complexities of managing life with cancer.
The primary goal of palliative care is to improve the quality of life of the patient and their family through the treatment process. There are various ways in which this can be accomplished.
Prior to your visit, the palliative care physician will have reviewed your medical history and clarified any questions. Various topics will be discussed, including symptoms or side effects from illness or treatment, medications that you are taking, and involvement with family or friends in providing support and decision-making. Together with your physician, you will help create a plan for managing symptoms.
Necessary prescriptions will be provided, and appropriate referrals to other members of the interdisciplinary health care team will be made. Finally, a plan for following-up and communicating with other health care providers will be initiated.
Although this may seem daunting, the palliative care physician will act as a guide to help create a plan that will facilitate smooth and comprehensive care throughout your treatment. During your consultation, it is of the utmost importance that your wishes are heard and respected.
If you are interested in the supportive services offered by our palliative care program and have not received a referral, ask your physician for more information and use this brochure as a guide. Virginia Cancer Specialists provides palliative care consultations at many of its offices. Appointments can be facilitated through your oncologist or made by calling our Central Scheduling department at (703) 208-3155.
Once you have set an appointment for a palliative care consultation, it is helpful if you prepare. Take time to write down your questions and concerns about various areas of treatment and its physical, social, emotional, psychological and financial impact. Create a list of medications and treatments. Track your symptoms and side effects. If you have an Advance Directive, bring it with you (you can also ask our staff for information on how to prepare an Advance Directive). Bring a friend or family member who can provide support and ask additional questions.