What is Palliative Care and How Can it Help Me?
It’s estimated that more than six million people in the United States could benefit from palliative care. Unfortunately, few people know about this type of care and its many benefits. Given the statistics, chances are you or someone you know could benefit from palliative care.
“Palliative care is specialized medical care for people living with a serious or chronic illness who are undergoing treatment,” Dr. Kelly Erola, Chief Medical Officer for Lower Cape Fear LifeCare said. “It focuses on relieving pain, symptoms, and stress to improve quality of life for patients and their families. Palliative care providers coordinate with a patient’s doctors, and help people better understand their illness and treatment options.”
Multiple studies show the benefits of palliative care. For instance, patients who receive palliative care while in the hospital spend less time in intensive care units. They are also less likely to have to visit the emergency room or to be re-admitted to the hospital after they return home.
“Studies also show that people with chronic or serious illness have less severe symptoms when receiving palliative care,” Erola said. “These people experience better quality of life, with less pain, less shortness of breath, less depression, and less nausea.”
The American Cancer Society reports that cancer patients receiving palliative care have better emotional health, family members are more satisfied with the care received, and that starting care soon after a cancer diagnosis may extend survival.
Palliative care patients with heart failure, lung disease, dementia, and other serious or chronic illnesses also experience improved quality of life. There is no wrong time to start palliative care while undergoing treatment; it is for people of any age, and at any stage of illness. Ideally, it is provided early and throughout the illness.
Lower Cape Fear LifeCare is and has been the area’s leader in palliative care for many years. “We began providing care in local hospitals, where the agency continues to serve inpatients at New Hanover Regional Memorial, Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center, and Columbus Regional Healthcare System,” Erola said.
During the last three years, Lower Cape Fear LifeCare’s palliative care services have grown by approximately 160 percent as more and more doctors recognize the benefits. In addition to serving patients wherever they call home, the agency also operates clinics to serve patients at Zimmer Cancer Center in Wilmington and Donayre Cancer Center in Whiteville.
“I would suggest that anyone who is interested in finding out more about palliative care for themselves or a loved one give us a call,” Erola added. “We’re here to help patients and families get the care they need to improve their quality of life.”
Kelly Erola, MD, FAAHPM, FAAFP, is Chief Medical Officer and Clinical Director for Lower Cape Fear LifeCare based in Wilmington, NC