When you mention the words "palliative care", people immediately see an image of cancer patients being taken care of in the last phase of their lives in a hospital setting. But over the last decade, this term has been broadened to serve even those who are not yet dying.
In fact, it focuses now more on improving quality of life of people with chronic and life-threatening illnesses. Diseases that call for palliative care include kidney failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Alzheimer's disease, heart failure, and cancer, among many others.
Many of the medical schools in the United States have included palliative care programs in their curriculum, teaching medical students as well as residents about hospital palliative care. Today, there are over 1,400 hospitals that provide this special care and about 80 percent of these have about 300 beds for this program.
A team that gives palliative care primarily includes a doctor, nurse and social worker. Others also have a psychologist or psychiatrist, physical therapist, occupational therapist, nutritionist, and a chaplain. The people involved in the team depend on the special needs of the patient.
To find good palliative care in your vicinity, the first person to ask would be your doctor. He/she will give you several recommendations that you may contact. Keep in mind though that this doesn't mean that you have to give up your current doctor. You can still go to your current doctor for checkup while receiving palliative care services. Your regular doctor and the doctor in the palliative care team will work hand in hand to provide you with the best medical care.
Another way to search for palliative care is to inquire in the hospital, as this is where most patients receive this form of care. But you can also inquire in other health settings that provide this program. These include nursing homes, hospices, outpatient clinics, and assisted living facilities.
Other resources that can help you locate a palliative care program in your area include Getpalliativecare.org, National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, and American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine.
If you've found a palliative care team, check if the doctor is board-certified. You can do this by checking with the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine. Of course, it would also help a lot to study more about this particular type of care program. Certain organizations can help you with this purpose. Some of these are Center to Advance Palliative Care, National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, and the National Institutes of Health: Clinical Trials on Palliative Care.
Before you enlist the help of a palliative care team, be sure to talk to each one of them first. Find out more about their educational background, training, certifications, work experience and so on. Get a feel about the person to see if he/she is someone that you feel like you'll be able to get along with. It's hard enough to be ill. Dealing with a person who gets to your skin would only make matters worse.