Palliative Care and Symptom Management

Palliative care services are available to patients and their families who are facing advanced illness. Palliative care is provided by a specially-trained team of doctors, nurse practitioners, social workers and chaplains who work together with a patient’s surgical, radiation or medical oncologist to provide additional support. It is appropriate at any age and at any stage in a serious illness and is provided along with curative treatment. The team offers coping strategies and support and help managing symptoms such as pain, nausea, fatigue and anxiety. Palliative care provides a specialized approach to medical care for people with serious illnesses, focusing on relief from symptoms of the illness and the treatment, and involving both the patient and family members to improve quality of life.

One of the biggest misconceptions is that palliative care is about foregoing treatment for the disease and preparing to die. Its real goal is to help you manage your symptoms and treatment effects so you can tolerate treatment better. The palliative physician, as a consultant to the doctors managing medical care, makes recommendations on extended pain management and any other support the patient or family needs. He or she takes the proposed treatment plan and looks at how it integrates into the family’s life, taking into account family status, socioeconomic issues, and spiritual needs in the plan of care. You can request a palliative care referral from your doctor or contact the service directly. They also provide assistance with end-of-life issues, if needed.