What is Palliative Care?
Palliative Care is an extra layer of support for patients facing a serious illness that aims to provide relief from both the symptoms and the stress that they are currently experiencing.
If you or a loved one are experiencing any of the following, Palliative Care may be right for you:
- Presence of a serious, chronic illness
- Difficulty controlling physical or emotional symptoms related to serious medical illness
- Uncertainty regarding prognosis or treatment goals
- Noticeable, concerning weight loss
- Frequent hospitalizations and ED visits
- Limited social support such as homelessness or chronic mental illness
- Use of tube feeding or TPN in cognitively impaired or seriously ill patients
Palliative Care is beneficial to both the patient and their caregiver(s), and can occur in a variety of settings:
- Long-term Care and Nursing Facilities
- Palliative Care Clinics
Specially trained doctors, nurses, social workers, chaplains, and volunteers collaborate with the patient's physicians and care team to maintain treatment, assess the patient's status, provide information about resources related to physical and emotional symptoms, and more. This treatment option can be applied to a variety of circumstances or in accordance with other services, including curative treatment and home health services.
Palliative Care services can begin at any time during a patient's illness, and can bring about improved quality of life and mental health. Patients who have one or more of the conditions listed below are likely a candidate for Palliative Care:
- Patients with serious illness, but are still interested in curative-based treatment/rehabilitation
- Patients who have a prognosis that is uncertain
- Metastatic or recurrent cancer
- Advanced heart disease (CHF, CAD, Cardiomyopathy)
- Advanced COPD (O2 dependent, frequent exacerbation)
- Advanced neurological disease (ALS, MS, Parkinson's Disease)
- Stroke with decreased function (by 50%)
- End-stage renal disease
- Advanced Dementia (limited language, require assistance with all activities of daily living, unable to ambulate independently)
- Advanced liver disease
- Unacceptable level of pain
- Patient or family members desire help with advance care planning or determining goals of care
- Various uncontrolled symptoms (dyspnea, nausea, fatigue, etc.)
- Frequent hospitalizations/ED visits
- Recurrent infections
- Poor functional status
- Unintentional weight loss
Advanced Care Planning
Patients facing serious illness should have a clear understanding of how to properly document their preferences for caregivers and care teams involved in managing healthcare decisions.
All care protocols should be based on the patient’s values, beliefs, preferences, and individual medical issues. Although these types of planning documents are typically associated with end-of-life care, it is important to note that these are "living" documents and can be amended at any time, for any reason. Some common types of advanced care planning documents are:
- LaPOST (Louisiana Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment) is a legally binding physician's order that clearly states the patient's wishes for treatment. This document is typically completed by the patient, under the advice and direction of medical care staff such as doctors, nurses, and social workers.
- Five Wishes is an easy-to-read legal document that identifies your treatment preferences in response to an emergency. It is unique among other living wills and health agent forms because it speaks to all of a person’s needs: medical, personal, emotional, and spiritual. It also helps structure discussions with your family and physician(s) to ensure your needs are communicated clearly.
Advance Directive defines how a patient wants to live with and be treated for a serious illness. An advance directive speaks on your behalf in an emergency when you cannot communicate. This document can be completed by the patient anytime but is recommended for anyone with a chronic, serious, or terminal illness. A lawyer is not needed to fill out an advance directive, but your document will only become legally valid once you sign it with the required witnesses.
- Power of Attorney is the responsibility given to someone to act on behalf of a patient. The patient (principal), appoints and authorizes someone (agent), to make decisions on their behalf if/when they cannot decide themselves. There are two types of Power of Attorney: durable and springing. Durable Power of Attorney allows the agent to begin immediately while a springing Power of Attorney is only effective once a licensed physician grants permission. The legal documentation for a Power of Attorney states who the agent is and what they have the authority to do. They may be asked to make healthcare decisions, manage financial operations, or both. These tasks become increasingly difficult with age and illness so, a principal (patient) is recommended to appoint an agent sooner rather than later.
If you or a loved one are interested in receiving more information from Palliative Care of Baton Rouge about any of the above, call 225-767-4673.