Knowing Your Palliative Care Team Members
Keep in mind that everyone is different in terms of how their disease impacts their quality of life. While you may not access all of these health care providers or other experts, each can play a role on your Palliative Care Team to help you achieve the best quality of life.
Clinical Team Members
If you feel that you or a loved one could benefit from palliative care, speak with your primary care physician. They will be able to guide you in the right direction and provide referrals for clinical team members.
Your treating healthcare physician has expertise in your disease and understands how your disease impacts other body systems. This physician will sit as part of your palliative care team. This could be your primary care physician, an oncologist, or other disease specialist.
Palliative Care Physician
This physician’s goals are to prevent and alleviate suffering to improve your quality of life. They have specialty training in this unique subset of healthcare. They can help as you or your loved one face a difficult diagnosis.
Pain Management Experts
Pain can impact people in so many devastating ways. Not only is it physically disruptive, but it can take a toll on your mental health and wellbeing, too. Working with pain management experts to improve your pain levels can transform your quality of life.
Nurses are trained to be attentive to your needs as a patient. They support you in terms of physical and mental comfort, education, acceptance and coping, and provide counsel to families.
Food is medicine. Regardless of whether the disease state is curable or not, a Dietitian plays a role in palliative care. Optimal nutrition and hydration reduces physical deterioration and supports quality of life. Don’t forget, you have access to ConnectCare3’s Registered Dietitians. They are able to work with you to achieve optimal nutrition while going through treatment.
Movement is good for the body as well as the mind. Physical Therapists help you preserve your strength, balance, and independence through movement. Even someone with a progressive, aggressive illness can benefit from Physical Therapy. This treatment modality supports mobility, helps to maintain and/or restore function, as well as helps to improve symptoms.
To quote the American Occupational Therapy Association, Palliative Care Occupational Therapists help you by promoting your participation in meaningful life experiences and activities of daily living (or ADLs).
These providers share a common goal of supporting the highest quality of life possible for their patients.
Additional Team Members
In addition to clinical team members who assist you with physical concerns, there are members of the team who provide you with support for your mind, your spirit, and your affairs.
Complimentary & Alternative Medicine
In an article published in Integrative Cancer Therapies, it was found that about 40% of cancer patients who were also receiving palliative care practiced complementary and alternative medicines. These alternative treatments can improve the quality of life and help alleviate suffering. These alternative treatments could include reiki, massage therapy, acupuncture, meditation, and many more.
Not only do they help coordinate care, but they are your advocate. They can assist in facilitating conversations with your family and help you with transitions throughout your treatment process. Licensed Clinical Social Workers can even provide therapy and counseling for you and your family members through you or your loved one’s experience of managing and navigating a severe illness, as well as refer you to social service programs that you might be eligible for.
Mental Health Professionals
Mental and physical health are interrelated. Chronic, serious illness often co-occurs with behavioral and/or mental health concerns. The Cleveland Clinic suggests that an estimated one-third of people diagnosed with a serious, life-changing chronic illness or disease will experience symptoms of depression. Feelings of sadness and depression are normal, but when they persist, treatment is necessary. Even though things may look bleak when you’re ill, in pain, or trying new treatments with difficult side effects, counseling and therapy can improve your quality of life. It’s estimated that of the people with mental health concerns who seek treatment, about 60-80% of them go into recovery from their mental health concern! Imagine changing your mind, remaining resilient during challenging times, and enhancing your mental health even in the throes of a long-term, serious illness. How empowering!
When facing a progressive illness like dementia, COPD, Heart Failure or even cancer, coping with your experience is essential to support your quality of life. A pastor, spiritual professional, or clergy can speak with you and your family to help you cope with the present experiences and offer prayer, scripture, and healing to improve your quality of life. Accepting your present situation supports your spiritual, mental, and physical health. In addition, making amends and working through anything important to you spiritually as you face the serious, life-changing diagnosis is another crucial part of spiritual professionals. While we recognize not everyone has the same belief system, we highlight the value of seeking council and support from spiritual professionals as one of the many aspects of care that can boost your quality of life as you pursue Palliative Care.
By adding this professional to your Palliative Care Team, you are taking steps to ensure your affairs are in order. Advance planning and preparation of a living will, powers of attorney, and trust allows you and your family to have peace of mind that your affairs are in order and that your wishes will be carried out to protect you and your loved ones. These decisions are best made during a time of clarity, not in the middle of a crisis.
Part of getting your affairs in order includes your finances. It’s essential to understand your financial picture and what will be available should you have a long-term illness or any situation where you would be unable to work. Understanding what short and long-term disability insurance you have along with life insurance, death benefits, social security, and funeral costs is necessary for peace of mind. Keeping organized and communicating with your family regarding your estate plan alleviates unneeded stress during a time of crisis or illness.
Our Nurse Navigators can help you navigate the complex healthcare system when facing a difficult diagnosis. Many critical illnesses require the care of multiple specialists and our Nurse Navigators are here to support you in coordinating that care and ensuring your healthcare needs are met.
Additionally, ConnectCare3’s Registered Dietitians can provide you assistance in developing a diet that fits your dietary restrictions, lifestyle, and diagnosis.
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