What is Palliative Care?

Palliative care puts you in control when you receive a life-limiting diagnosis such as Alzheimer’s, ALS, cancer, COPD, diabetes, MS, Parkinson’s, or end stage organ failure of the heart, liver, kidneys, or lungs.

When you are receiving palliative care there are still treatment options to modify the course of your disease, as opposed to hospice care when there are no more treatment options, or you elect to not pursue further treatment.

Palliative care allows you to define what quality of life means to you. You decide what brings meaning to your life, so that a care plan can be designed along those parameters.

  •  For some people, mobility is critical. “If I can’t be out of bed to play with my grandkids, that isn’t a life I want.”
  •  For others, events and milestones are important. “I want to live to see my child’s fifth birthday” or “I want to celebrate my 80th birthday”.
  •  For some, it comes down to faith. “I want you to do everything possible. God will decide when it is time for me.”

Each situation is unique. And, as a physician who specializes in palliative care, I have yet to encounter any family that has had the exact same wants, needs, or desires.  

When I am working with someone to help them create their care plan, I lay out the medical options, risks, benefits, and alternatives so they understand and can make informed personal choices.

The analogy I often use is that palliative care physicians are like Sherpas helping you climb Mount Everest—we know where the crevasses are and can guide you up or down the mountain. But YOU decide the direction.

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