Many people might not look to end-of-life care as an option for their elderly loved one with a terminal illness. If your loved one is diagnosed with diseases like Parkinson’s or dementia, choosing end-of-life care might seem like a pessimistic option. There’s a common belief that end-of-life care only hastens death when, in actuality, it can slow it down and even reverse your loved one’s decline in some cases. There are plenty of benefits of end-of-life care that can make things better for your loved one, making it a type of care worth looking into.
What End-Of-Life Care Is
There are two major types of end-of-life care: hospice and palliative care. The type of end-of-life care that you should consider depends on how long your loved one has to live and if treatments can work to manage symptoms and stall the progression of the disease. Hospice care is only used when a person has six months or less to live. Hospice care focuses explicitly on pain management and comfort during the final days of a person’s life.
On the other hand, palliative care is “specialized medical care for people living with a serious illness.” Those in palliative care often receive medical care for symptoms and treatment intended to cure or slow down the progression of the disease. Palliative care aims to enhance a person’s care by focusing on their quality of life.
What Palliative Care Does for Its Patients
A person can use palliative care as soon as they are diagnosed with a long-term illness such as dementia, Parkinson’s, or cancer. Palliative care focuses on treatment, pain management, and assistance during the course of the disease. Doctors can evaluate the best course of action depending on what stage of the disease your loved one is experiencing. Many terminal illnesses don’t have cures, but there are treatments and coping strategies that can make the disease manageable.
Treatments Can Manage Symptoms
Depending on the terminal illness your loved one has, a doctor can prescribe medication or treatments that can slow down symptoms. It’s easier for doctors to treat early symptoms, which is why it’s essential to enter end-of-life care early. For example, beginning and middle stage dementia are easier to treat than late stage dementia. Most medications and treatments only work for the beginning stages.
Pain Management Helps With Mental Health
Terminal illnesses often cause a lot of physical pain and discomfort for the person who is sick. Sometimes the levels of pain can have adverse effects on the person’s mental health. Chronic pain can cause depression and anxiety, which can make the symptoms of the disease that much worse. Doctors can prescribe patients medication to treat pain and relieve the worst of the symptoms, overall improving mental health.
Assistance Alleviates Extra Stress
End-of-life care can also provide assistance around the house with tasks such as cooking, chores, laundry, and taking medication. Handling this on your own or with the help of just one caretaker can cause caretaker burnout and extra stress for your sick loved one. However, having a palliative care team can delegate the tasks needed.
On your palliative care team, you can have someone to help with daily tasks that might be hard for you or your loved one. Not having to worry about managing these activities can remove extra stress. High amounts of stress can worsen symptoms and worsen the decline of your loved one, making it essential that they have the proper support for these activities.
Supports Goals and Wishes
If your loved one is diagnosed with a long-term illness, it doesn’t mean that their life is over. Many who are diagnosed with illnesses such as dementia and Parkinson’s still have many years to live. However, sometimes, a person’s outlook can also affect the progression of the disease. Those without hope might develop deep depression. They may begin to neglect their own needs and even resist treatment, wondering if there’s a point to keep living.
Palliative care can focus on the person’s goals and hopes for the future. The caretaking team can focus on treatment with these goals in mind, ensuring that the patient has actual comfort and quality of life on their own terms.
Provide Education on Illness and Options
Sometimes, disease progression can be caused by not knowing the best options available. It can be challenging for you to make informed decisions about your loved one’s health on your own, especially if you don’t entirely understand their illness. You and the person who receives end-of-life care can benefit from advice and informed treatment approaches. Knowing the best treatment options can provide additional relief for the sick person because they know that you are making the right decisions for treatment.