Palliative care offers care and support from a team of health providers such as doctors, nurses, and social workers. Palliative care isn’t just for those who are nearing the end of life. In fact, it’s for anyone at any age who has a serious illness—and their family caregivers.
Jeri Miller, Ph.D., leads research on end-of-life and palliative care at the National Institute of Nursing Research. As people face serious illnesses, including COVID-19, Dr. Miller explains how a palliative care team can help.
How does palliative care work?
Palliative care is specialized care for people living with a serious illness. You can receive palliative care at the same time you are receiving treatments for your serious illness. What palliative care does is provide relief from symptoms such as pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, and others. It also helps you with practical needs, manage the medical treatments you are receiving, improve your quality of life, and provide help to your family.
When do people get palliative care?
Some people receive palliative care for a long time; others do not. It’s not based on your prognosis, but on your needs. Hospice is a special form of palliative care for individuals at the last stages of an illness or advanced disease. After someone passes away, palliative care teams can help support family members who may be grieving that loss.
Who provides palliative care?
It’s provided by a specially trained team of doctors, nurses, social workers, and others who work with you and your own doctor. They work together to make sure that your care is coordinated with your providers and that they listen to your preferences for care to help you understand your treatment options and choices. They make sure to provide expert symptom management when you are seriously ill.
What current research areas are you focused on?
Much of our research centers on discovering better ways to manage pain and symptoms that occur in a serious illness. The focus is not just on the ill individual but also the impact of an illness on family caregivers who, together with their ill loved one, are experiencing the challenges of a serious illness. Researchers are also trying to understand the unique needs of palliative care in under-served and vulnerable populations. That is so important right now because palliative care is for everyone, everywhere.