Palliative care serves a very specific purpose: it is meant to provide comfort. Usually, palliative care is provided in a hospice setting, where the comfort is given as a type of end of life care. Because of this association, many people are resistant to giving their loved one this care. If palliative care is recommended, that means that their loved one is expected to pass away soon, and this is a very difficult reality to accept. A second opinion is often sought, and then a third opinion. Even then, getting palliative care for a loved one means admitting to them, and to yourself, that they do not have long to live. This is never easy.
But palliative care–and hospice care, in general–has a very important place in the broader area of senior care. When doctors have determined that there is nothing else that can be done to improve your loved one’s quality of life, and that the end is getting close, palliative care is often the best way to help them stay as comfortable as possible during this difficult time.
Many people are of the mindset that one more surgery or more intensive rounds of medication can help their loved one stay alive longer. Even if this is true (sometimes it isn’t, but rather, wishful thinking), there’s often only a very small chance that this will improve the quality of life of your loved one. In fact, more treatments, especially invasive ones, will only make your loved one unhappier. Talking with them about end of life treatments is a good idea. The sooner these conversations begin, the better. Knowing what an elderly loved one would want long before the decision becomes critical can be a good way for your family to guide their decisions. It’s a conversation that will be ongoing, but the sooner an opinion is found, the easier palliative care decisions will become later on as they become needed. They are not easy conversations, but you will be glad that you had them.
Alternative forms of care, like palliative care, are becoming more and more popular, and major medical insurance companies are beginning to pick them up for coverage. This has given them more credibility in the public’s eye, but even though they are often very helpful, many people still avoid them.
One benefit that you may never have considered is the fact that palliative care can be given in the home. As long as the in-home care professional that you hire is trained in this type of care, there’s no reason why many people cannot receive hospice care at home. If this is more peaceful for your loved one, then it is a very good choice. Most people find that they are happier in their own home, and just because they are seeking comfort at the end of their life does not mean that they cannot get it where they are already happiest. In-home hospice care is not for everyone, but for the many that will benefit, it is a very welcome relief, taking away some of the (undeserved) stigma that many families have placed upon this type of care.