When is it Time for Palliative Care?

Elder woman with her caregiver representing when it is time for palliative care
Published:  January 11, 2024

Deciding when to begin palliative care is a significant consideration for people dealing with serious health issues. It’s not just about medical treatments; it’s about taking a more comprehensive approach to support patients facing complex health challenges. It is essential to identify the key signs and factors that help healthcare providers and families know when it’s best to start palliative care.

Understanding Palliative Care

Before delving into the signs that may prompt the consideration of palliative care, it’s essential to understand what palliative care entails. Palliative care is not synonymous with end-of-life care; instead, it can be introduced at any stage of a serious illness. Its primary focus is on alleviating pain and addressing the emotional, social, and spiritual aspects of illness. This holistic approach aims to enhance the overall well-being of the patient and their family.

Common conditions that palliative care addresses include:

When to Start Palliative Care

Several factors can indicate when it’s time to consider palliative care for a patient, from chronic progressive illness to a general decline in everyday functioning.

Chronic and Progressive Illness

Palliative care often comes into focus when confronted with chronic and progressive illnesses, such as cancer, heart failure, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The decision to explore palliative care may arise when a patient’s condition does not respond adequately to curative treatments, or when the disease exhibits signs of advancement despite ongoing medical interventions.

Frequent Hospitalizations

A recurrent cycle of hospitalizations may serve as a poignant indicator that the patient’s condition is proving challenging to stabilize. Palliative care can be an invaluable resource in such instances, providing continuous support to manage symptoms at home, thereby potentially mitigating the need for frequent hospital admissions and improving the patient’s overall comfort.

Uncontrolled Pain and Symptoms

Persistent pain and symptoms that elude effective management through conventional treatments can significantly compromise a patient’s quality of life. Palliative care specialists are adept at fine-tuning pain management strategies and addressing challenging symptoms, offering relief and comfort to patients navigating the complexities of serious illness.

Decline in Functional Status

A noticeable decline in a patient’s functional status, characterized by an inability to perform routine daily activities or a significant loss of independence, can be a poignant signal for palliative care consideration. Palliative care teams excel at helping patients adapt to these changes, with a primary focus on maximizing comfort and maintaining dignity throughout the progression of the illness.

Patient and Family Distress

The emotional and psychological toll of a serious illness extends beyond the physical realm, impacting both the patient and their family. Palliative care recognizes this holistic aspect of care, incorporating professionals skilled in providing emotional and spiritual support. This multidimensional approach aims to address the diverse needs of patients and their loved ones.

Advance Care Planning

Initiating conversations around advance care planning becomes pivotal when patients express a desire to shift the focus of care from aggressive treatments to an emphasis on improving their quality of life. These discussions, which may involve exploring the patient’s goals and values, can catalyze considering the introduction of palliative care.

In-Home Palliative Care Services with Ennoble

Experience personalized in-home palliative care services with Ennoble. With us, you gain access to comprehensive care tailored to your unique needs, providing relief from symptoms and ensuring holistic support for both patients and families. Take the proactive step towards a more comfortable and fulfilling journey – contact us today to get started.