Five ways palliative care can help you or a loved one

May 15, 2023

Healthy Aging
Family talking

If you’re living with a serious illness — or caring for someone who is — palliative care can help you manage life during this challenging time. No matter the disease — heart failure, cancer, dementia or Parkinson’s — a serious illness can be stressful and even overwhelming. But the right care for you and your loved ones can provide the extra support you need.

Learn five ways palliative care can help.

1. Palliative care provides comfort and improves quality of life

A team of doctors, nurses or specialists trained to offer comfort and tend to your needs can provide palliative care, whatever your age or stage of illness.

“When you’re fighting an illness, you will experience days when you just don’t feel well. And sometimes your treatments make you feel worse in the short term,” explains Sarah West, MD, a fellowship-trained Hospice and Palliative Care physician with Riverside Health System.. “Palliative care helps you manage the discomfort so you can enjoy a better quality of life.”

Palliative care experts will help you manage the symptoms of your disease and any side effects from treatment, such as:

  • Pain
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Trouble sleeping

To help you feel better, your palliative care team may offer medicine, nutritional guidance, physical or occupational therapy, or other treatments approved by your physician.

2. Palliative care helps you understand and navigate the health care system

When you or a loved one is sick, you have lots of questions. And your life may seem like an endless series of doctor appointments and treatment visits. Palliative care experts can help you communicate with your physicians and navigate the health care system. They aim to help you understand your illness and treatment choices, and make sure you meet your needs.

3. Palliative care helps with the practical issues of care

Your palliative care team can also help you with practical matters that you encounter during an illness. For example, your caregivers might:

  • Show you or a family member how to administer an at-home treatment
  • Show you simpler ways to bathe or dress
  • Show you helpful ways to sit, stand, or move from one position to another

4. Palliative care helps you cope with stress

During a serious illness, it’s natural for family and friends to worry about their loved one and feel overwhelmed.

“You wonder how you can care for your loved one, keep your job, and tend to other family responsibilities at the same time,” says Dr. West. “This ongoing stress often leads to depression and a sense of hopelessness.”

Specialists in palliative care can help you cope in many ways, including:

  • Offer counseling
  • Lead family meetings about your loved one’s care
  • Refer you to a mental health provider
  • Suggest support groups

5. Palliative care guides you through the business aspects of serious illness

When you’re sick, your focus should be on coping and healing. But serious illness presents a long list of business issues that also need attention.

A palliative care specialist can help:

  • Explain complex medical forms
  • Find answers to job-related issues
  • Find answers to insurance questions

Find palliative care in your area

By managing patient symptoms and the practical issues of a serious illness, palliative care helps you cope and gives you strength to carry on with daily life. To find out about Riverside Health System Palliative Care services available in your area, talk with your provider or call us at 757-594-5600.


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