Understanding Palliative Care

Palliative care is a specialized type of care that focuses on providing relief of suffering for patients with serious illness in order to improve quality of life. The goal of palliative care is to prevent and relieve the physical symptoms, anxiety and stress that often accompany a serious illness. This includes managing pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, loss of appetite and decreased function.

Common health conditions addressed by palliative care include:

  • Cancer
  • Heart failure
  • COPD
  • Stroke
  • Kidney disease
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease

The field of palliative care grew out of the hospice movement and has changed significantly over time. Today, palliative care programs are embedded in 75% of all large hospitals in the United States. This is significant because there are 90 million Americans living with a serious illness and that number is expected to at least double over the next 25 years.

“When palliative care is utilized, we find there is a better patient understanding of their disease process,” said Jennifer Roth, a palliative care nurse at Memorial Medical Center. “We also see relief in pain and symptoms as they pertain to that disease process.

“With this added layer of support, there is a decrease in decisions needing to be made in the event of a crisis, decreased 911 calls, decreased visits to the Emergency Department and decreased hospitalizations for the patient,” she added. “In the long run, this helps to lessen any burdens or concerns of the family as the disease progresses.”

Palliative care teams are made up of clinicians trained in palliative care, including physicians, nurses, social workers and chaplains. These professionals are committed to effective communication, compassion and treating the “whole” patient. This patient-centered model of care also includes the family as part of this team.

The palliative care team can help patients and their families to:

  • Establish healthcare goals
  • Navigate the healthcare system
  • Manage pain and symptoms
  • Facilitate family meetings with the healthcare team
  • Understand the disease process
  • Feel supported throughout the course of treatment

If you or a loved one are experiencing any of the following problems due to a serious illness, you may consider asking your provider about palliative care resources:

  • Pain or other symptoms
  • Frequent hospitalizations
  • Functional decline
  • Decreased quality of life

Palliative care services are available to patients admitted to Memorial Medical Center. To speak with a Palliative Care team member, contact the Advanced Care Management office at 217-788-3360.

If you or your organization are interested in more education surrounding Palliative Care, please contact Julie Bobell, Memorial Health System education liaison, at 217-415-8162.