I've talked to several people over the past few months about palliative and hospice care. I find that the folks I talk with have rarely heard of palliative care; I get lots of "can you spell that?" and some confused looks.
Palliative care is a great resource for anyone with a potentially life-limiting illness. To access palliative care, you don't need to be in the final stages of an illness. While many people who utilize palliative care do have a life-limiting illness, this need not be the case to get palliative care.
Palliative care can begin at any time during the course of an illness and is not dependent on your prognosis. A patient in palliative care can continue to receive curative treatments if that is appropriate for your situation.
We signed Lacy up for palliative care last year, just before Thanksgiving. The great thing about palliative care is that the physicians who provide this service work with your doctor and can help to coordinate care among several specialities. Because Huntington's Disease is a life-limiting illness, there are no curative treatments to access. So palliative care can help Lacy receive treatment for symptoms of HD - fatigue, mobility issues, pain, feeding issues - and can coordinate with his primary care physician, neurologist, and psychiatrist on appropriate treatment. This was particularly helpful when Lacy was admitted to the behavioral unit at our hospital after Thanksgiving.
As we continue this journey, we'll likely be using palliative care more and more. This will help us as we need medical equipment or home health assistance.
Folks with potentially life limiting illnesses shouldn't hesitate to access palliative care at any time. Often, hospice services also have palliative care options, but palliative care is separate from hospice. This is not giving up or discontinuing treatment. Palliative care is covered by most insurance plans including Medicare and Medicaid.