It is not easy to think of a loved one having to face daunting treatments, therapies, and pain during a serious illness. We can have hope, we can cure, and we can heal sometimes all at the same time. For most of our lives, curing and healing really are the same. We have gotten sick and then recovered to a wholeness of being. As we age, however, we may need to have a psychological shift where we focus more on repairing ourselves, reforming our view, and renewing our vision for the future.
The video Healing vs. Curing walks us through the personal caregiving journey of Cooper Linton, Duke HomeCare & Hospice's Associate Vice President, and how he learned to recycle the way he looked at healing when curing was no longer an option for his mother.
The good news is there is help and there is hope. Palliative care, more commonly known as "comfort care" aims to help keep your loved one as comfortable as possible as they go through the course of their treatment.
The word "palliative" means to relieve or soothe the symptoms of a disease or disorder without effecting a cure. Palliative care is considered "consultative" and can take place wherever your loved one calls home whether it is in a residential home, a facility, or even a hospital. Many insurances cover this type of care and the co-pay is similar to what you would expect with a typical doctor visit. A palliative care team typically consists of doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, and other professionals who oversee the ongoing comfort of their patients. Palliative care practitioners typically consult with the primary care physician and other specialists and make suggestions about maintaining the quality of life and what can be done to create comfort. Patients can receive palliative care at any time and at any stage of their illness, even if the patient is still seeking curative or aggressive measures to treat their disease. Palliative care teams treat people suffering from many serious disease types and chronic
illnesses, including but not limited to cancer, cardiac disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Alzheimer's disease, kidney failure, Parkinson's disease, and Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS). Focusing on the symptoms of both the disease and the treatment, palliative care helps with a wide range of issues, including pain, depression, anxiety, fatigue, shortness of breath, constipation, nausea, loss of appetite, and difficulty sleeping. Palliative care may also improve one's ability to tolerate medical treatments and can provide more control over care by improving understanding of treatment choices.
Palliative care teams intentionally have time built into their schedules to allow for deep and meaningful conversations with patients and their families. These teams also help family caregivers with referrals to community resources to bolster the support. Those who receive palliative care often report they experience an increase in their quality of life by working with a care team that not only treats current symptoms but is specifically trained to anticipate, prevent, and manage suffering. Palliative care teams often have a gentle way to start the conversation about the future course of the disease process. After all, most physicians are trained to prevent and cure illnesses and it is very hard to deliver news that a disease will continually decrease quality of life. Ironically, being surrounded in the Triangle with amazing medical institutions, wonderful teaching hospitals, and clinical trials can make it difficult to figure out when the conversation should switch from curative to more of a maintenance approach. Learn more about how palliative care helps when you and your family are facing a serious illness by contacting the Duke Caregiver Support Program. Staff will gladly provide you with a referral to an appropriate palliative care provider in your area. Healing never loses its relevance and we tend to dwell on it. Healing also takes many forms beyond only physical. When a cure is no longer an option, caregivers' hope needs to realign for our loved ones and for ourselves.
If you are caregiving for a loved one and would like to get connected with others in our community who are walking the same path, join ABC11's Caregivers Corner moderated by Nicole Clagett. The group has 1800+ people supporting one another and sharing wonderful information and resources daily. More helpful tips about this topic can be found on ABC11's Caregivers Corner section.