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Palliative Care - Relieving Suffering

Palliative (PAH-lee-uh-tiv) care focuses on comfort rather than cure, treating distressing symptoms of serious illness and side-effects of treatments. It supports personal choices and participation in care planning. The goal is to promote quality of life to the greatest extent possible.

Palliative care involves a team of professionals: The physician and nurse work on physical problems, while a social worker and/or chaplain are available to help with emotional, spiritual, and practical concerns. Some palliative care programs offer nursing assistance with personal care and volunteers for family relief and companionship. The team members can help you focus on what you want to achieve and what is realistic in managing your illness. They can also help with fears and anxieties-yours and those of family members, too.

WHEN CAN YOU GET PALLIATIVE CARE?

Palliative care can begin at any point in a serious or life-limiting illness and can be provided along with treatment oriented toward cure. Many chronic conditions, such as cancer, are well suited to this approach. Many hospitals offer palliative care consultations. The team can talk with you and your physicians to clarify your goals and develop a care plan. You might see that team only once, or you might receive ongoing attention-each palliative care program is different and offers a different range of services.

HOW IS PALLIATIVE CARE PAID FOR?

At this writing, Medicare will cover one palliative care consultation visit from a hospice physician. Some private insurers and managed care organizations are adding palliative care benefits. The Veterans Health Administration offers palliative care services at no extra charge to qualified persons. Palliative care can also be obtained through private practice physicians and advanced practice nurses and nurse practitioners on a fee-for-service basis.

WHERE CAN YOU GET PALLIATIVE CARE?

You should talk first to your primary physician or the specialist treating you to discuss what services might be helpful and available. You can also ask your hospital about its palliative care program. Many hospice organizations also offer palliative care programs for persons whose illness is not terminal or who want to continue curative treatment. You can also contact the Colorado Center for Hospice & Palliative Care (www.cochpc.org). Or call 303-694-4728.

Palliative care is a new and growing field in health care. But in many ways, it is what doctors and nurses and caring people have been doing all along: helping people feel better so they can live well to the end of life and not suffer needlessly.
- From an article by Jennifer Ballentine, MA, Director of Programs, Colorado Center for Hospice & Palliative Care; Cordt T. Kassner, PhD, CEO, Colorado Center for Hospice & Palliative Care; and Paula Nelson-Marten, RN, PhD, AOCN, Associate Professor, University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center School of Nursing.

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