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When to Start Palliative Care

Have you or a loved one been diagnosed with a serious illness? If so, palliative care can help now or at any stage of your illness. Palliative care can be given alongside curative treatments, and with any prognosis or life expectancy.

Palliative care addresses a full range of issues for patients and their families. It relieves pain and other symptoms of illness and reduces side-effects of treatments. It provides medical and psychosocial support to patient and families.

In fact, palliative care can help you tolerate the treatments for your condition, and extend your life by enhancing your health and well-being. Additionally, palliative care can help older people who have many discomforts and disabilities late in life.

The best time to start palliative care is as soon as possible after your diagnosis, in order to receive the greatest possible benefit.

When Should a Patient Start Palliative Care?

Patients and loved ones are often unsure of when to start palliative care. They may think it’s only for people who are close to death, or that they should wait for their doctor to recommend it. However, these common beliefs are not true.

You can receive palliative care at any point during your illness. And if your doctor doesn’t mention it, don’t hesitate to bring up the idea of palliative care. Physicians are sometimes so focused on treatment, they give less attention to addressing symptoms and other consequences of illness.

The best time to start palliative care is as soon as possible after your diagnosis. That way, you’ll receive the greatest possible benefit from these services. But if you’ve waited to begin, don’t worry! Just get started as soon as you can. Palliative care can still help you and your family going forward.

What is palliative care?

Palliative care is a healthcare team that increases comfort, wellness, and quality of life for people with a serious illness, and that provide support for their family. You can receive palliative care at any stage of your illness and in addition to your regular treatments.

Palliative care can address a wide variety of issues, including pain, nausea, fatigue, anxiety, and depression, among many others. Palliative providers can educate you about your illness and treatment options. And they can help you and your family make care decisions and plan for your future.

The palliative care team includes a palliative care physician and nurse practitioner who provide a coordinated approach to your and your family’s needs.

“If you are trying to decide when to start palliative care, think about how your symptoms are affecting your life.

Palliative care can address these symptoms, so you and your family can have the best possible quality of life during your illness. Our palliative team works with you on what matters most to you.”

-Sara Pagliaro, DO, Associate Director of Palliative Medicine, Samaritan Healthcare & Hospice

Who can benefit from palliative care?

Anyone with a serious illness can benefit from palliative care. For instance, palliative care helps people with cancer, heart failure, lung disease, diabetes, kidney failure, dementia, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease, to name a few.

Family members of patients can also benefit from their loved one’s palliative care team, which can provide education, guidance, counselling, and practical support for both the family and patient.

Palliative care helps people gain the strength to carry on with daily life and improve their tolerance for medical treatments. It enables patients to have more control over their care by improving their understanding of treatment options.

Where is palliative care provided?

People can start receiving palliative care in their palliative provider’s office or in the hospital.

Will my insurance cover palliative care?

Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance may cover palliative care or certain palliative services. Military veterans may be eligible for palliative care through the Department of Veterans Affairs. Check with your insurance provider to find out what your policy will cover in your specific situation.

What if I don’t have much longer to live? 

If your doctor believes you have six months or less to live, you may be eligible for hospice care. Hospice is a form of palliative care for people near the end of life. To learn about the differences between these two types of care – which both increase comfort and quality of life – please visit Palliative Care vs. Hospice Care.

If you live in South Jersey and have questions about palliative care, please call Samaritan at (800) 229-8183.