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Palliative Care…Do You Know What It Is?

What is the Definition of Palliative Care?

By Mary Casterline, Senior Community Advisor, Living By Your Design, Inc.
The phone rings and your heart speeds up at the news: your mom has just been diagnosed with a chronic and painful disease. You know that there are many decisions to be made and that your mom and family will need information and support.  This is more than just a medical condition.  It will affect her quality of life and require the ongoing involvement of your family.  Who do you ask for help? Where do you start?
Consult with her Primary Care Physician to ask about Palliative Care Within the last 10 years, palliative care teams have become available in over ¾ of large hospitals to support those with chronic and life-threatening illness, such as cancer, dementia and Alzheimer’s, ALS, MS, as well as cardiac, respiratory and kidney diseases.   The World Health Organization’s  palliative care definition is “an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families…through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification”, curative treatment, and pain and symptom management.  It can include active medical intervention, monitoring of the disease progression, and/or hospice care while providing psychosocial and spiritual support for the patient and family.   In the Peoria area, Unity Point, OSF and Illinois Cancer Care all offer palliative care services.
What does Palliative Care look like?  Palliative care teams coordinate services you’re your primary care doctor and other medical specialists.  Teams generally include doctors who specialize in palliative care, nurses and social workers.  Additional support can be provided by dieticians, pharmacists, chaplains and other therapists (physical, massage, respiratory, etc.).  Care occurs in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and through hospice.  Most insurance companies (including Medicare and Medicaid) will cover much of palliative care services.  Be sure to confirm your insurance benefits with your insurance company, Medicare or Medicaid.
Individualized approach with YOU at the center.  Palliative care supports quality of life, helps with medical decisions and provides assistance for coping with your disease through personalized case management tailored to an individual’s and family’s needs.   You will be given information and education about your disease and treatment options.  You may be asked “What makes a quality day for you?  What would you like to be doing now but can’t because symptoms are interfering?”  Symptom management can be for pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, anxiety and/or depression, and nausea and/or lack of appetite.  And finally, palliative care can also include end-of-life planning and hospice services when curative treatment is no longer an option.  Gather more general information online at
Unity Point Health-Methodist Palliative Care Program
OSF Saint Francis Palliative Care Consultation Service
Illinois Cancer Care Palliative Care Clinic
How Living By Your Design can help.   We provide compassionate guidance to assist you with the legal, financial and lifestyle decisions that go along with a serious medical condition. We can be another set of eyes and ears at your medical appointments.  We can also guide people when they need to make their home ADA friendly due to changing physical needs.  We can look at your overall affairs and suggest funding sources when you need assisted living or long term care and assist you with educated referrals to senior living communities based upon your personal needs and circumstances.

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