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Posted: Monday, December 5, 2022

How Palliative Care Can Help

Each year, an estimated 40 million people are in need of palliative care, but many don’t even know what it is or why it exists. Palliative care programs provide pain management, symptom control, psychosocial support and spiritual care to patients and families facing a terminal or life-long illness.

“It’s really a parallel service – a transitional type of care. This specialty focuses on supporting people who suffer from chronic illnesses with symptoms that might be difficult to control. The goal is not end-of-life care. Instead, it’s symptom management as a person experiences a chronic illness throughout life,” board-certified hospice and palliative care physician Dr. Teresa Catron said. “Palliative care can even work with someone whose quality of life is being ruined by the chronic symptom of nausea. Our training involves management of symptoms, how medications can be beneficial, what kinds of receptors are involved and how organs are involved. We take all of that and introduce a treatment regimen that can relieve that symptom. So, it’s not about a life-limiting illness or death. Rather, this is someone whose life is so adversely impacted by a singular symptom. Palliative care can help that,” Catron said.

If your physician is unable to define what to expect of your illness, or to manage symptoms as your disease progresses, the use of palliative services can help ensure your comfort and you’re your symptoms are well-managed. Chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, AIDS and diabetes require palliative care. The goal is to prevent excess hospital stays, to keep you at home where you’re more comfortable and to teach you how to manage your illness in that setting. A palliative care specialist also can provide you with guidance on when it’s time to consider hospice.

Furthermore, the earlier you get palliative care involved, the better the patient does long-term. “Our team of nurse practitioners sees patients in the hospital, in area nursing homes and at home. In the hospital, our palliative care team works hand-in-hand with the hospital’s medical team to clarify and advocate for the patient’s care goals. We know that better symptom control means lower hospital utilization and a higher quality of life. We hope to translate the medical situation into a clear picture for the patient and his or her family. Then, we build a plan of care around the current situation with patient values and goals in mind,” Blount Memorial Home Services palliative care clinical coordinator Julie Carpenter said.

“On the outpatient side, our team sees patients in their homes. The goal is to help transition from hospital to home and to be able to stay home. As chronic disease takes its toll, it can become harder to get out to multiple appointments and harder to stick to complicated medication regimens. We narrow down goals and then tailor treatments around that,” Carpenter continued. “Palliative care looks at the whole picture, the whole situation, to create the best care plan for each patient,” she added.

For more information about the full range of chronic illness and end-of-life services Blount Memorial Hospice and Palliative Care offers, call 865-977-5702.

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