Those of us who have or know someone with a serious illness understand the toll it can take on the body and mind. The effects of illness are difficult enough to experience. But sometimes living with the side effects of illness can be tough, too. Serious illnesses can require medications that sometimes cause unpleasant symptoms. Being seriously ill can be stressful and cause some people to be depressed. It is tough on the people caring for those who are ill. Fortunately, more and more doctors have a way to treat the difficulties of being seriously ill- with palliative care.
"Palliative care focuses on patients with serious illnesses and what can be done to improve their quality of life," says
The word "palliate" means to ease harmful or harsh effects. During illnesses, palliative care can help patients and their caregivers experience a better quality of life. For instance, if a patient has cancer and has pain because of it,
Doctors provide palliative care in hospitals, doctors' offices, with nurses in nursing homes and with patients in community settings or in their homes. Palliative care doctors work with patients' primary care or any specialty care doctors who are treating the cause of the illness.
"We like to think of it as other doctors focus on treating the patient's primary illness. We focus on the burden of the illness," says
Research shows that palliative care can help patients' illnesses, too. In 2007, the
Palliative care is not the same as hospice care. Hospice care is provided when patients are at an advanced stage in an illness when it is clear that they are dying. Hospice care is meant to provide comfort and not treatment. In fact,
"When people have serious illness- like severe heart failure, kidney disease or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)-they don't feel well. They feel as if they can't do anything about it," says
For anyone wanting more information about improving quality of life during serious illness,