Preparing for Palliative Care

Following the diagnosis of a life-limiting illness, you will likely have many questions and your needs may change. If you or a loved one has recently encountered a health change like this, it may be a good idea to start considering in-home care for extra guidance and assistance along the way. If you are seeking curative treatments for your diagnosis, palliative care is worth considering.

Palliative care is an interdisciplinary medical caregiving approach aimed at optimizing quality of life and mitigating suffering among people with serious, complex illnesses.  This approach improves the quality of life of patients and their families by preventing and relieving suffering through comprehensive assessment and treatment of pain and other needs, whether physical, psychosocial, and/or spiritual.

If you are dealing with a life-limiting illness, but still desire to see specialists for aggressive treatment for your diagnosis, palliative care is a way for you to access added medical, emotional, and spiritual support. Before committing to palliative care, it’s important to determine if you are eligible.

You may be eligible to receive palliative care or enroll in VNA Care Choices palliative care if you meet the following criteria:

  • Diagnosed with end stage:
    • CHF
    • COPD
    • Cancer
    • Liver disease
    • Other end stage pulmonary diseases
  • Been told you have a prognosis of six months of life or fewer
  • Enrolled in any insurance plan accepted by Visiting Nurse Association
  • Living in a traditional home, group home, or assisted living facility

If palliative care sounds like a route that is fitting to your needs and you’ve discussed a care plan with your doctor, it may be time to start preparing for palliative care.

Here are some tips to help you prepare your mind, body and home for palliative care:

  • Start conversations with loved ones so that they are clear about your wishes for care
  • Understand who is on your care team and learn how to communicate effectively with doctors and medical staff
  • Keep a list of symptoms you’re experiencing and medications and supplements you use so you can track improvement or worsening of symptoms
  • Engage a loved one to accompany you for important appointments and treatments
  • Prepare your home by removing obstacles, clearing pathways, making room for medical equipment and adding nonslip bathmats to the bathrooms

In addition to all the above steps to prepare for palliative care, try to remember that palliative care should also be about comfort. Set up your home in a way that is comfortable to you. Keep your favorite blankets and sweaters nearby, have some favorite books on hand, and always communicate with your care team about what helps bring you comfort.