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“Quality of life” is important. But what does it mean?

Are you or a loved one struggling with the demands of a chronic illness? Non-hospice palliative care might be exactly the help you need.
Are you or a loved one struggling with the demands of a chronic illness? Non-hospice palliative care might be exactly the help you need. [ Gulfside Healthcare ]
Published Sep. 22|Updated Yesterday

If your health and finances are in good shape, “quality of life” might mean something entirely different to you than it would to someone with a chronic or life-limiting illness. For people in that situation, it can be a challenge managing daily activities; staying on top of medications, treatments and appointments; and ultimately, just keeping their spirits up.

That’s where non-hospice palliative care comes in. Palliative care focuses on providing patients with relief from the discomfort and stresses of a serious illness — whether the diagnosis is kidney failure, an auto-immune disease, COPD, dementia, cancer or something else. Provided by a team of doctors, nurses and other specialists who work together with the patient’s existing doctors, the goal is to provide an extra layer of emotional, spiritual and logistical support — ease symptoms, and improve quality of life and patient satisfaction. It is appropriate at any age and at any stage in a serious illness. Unlike hospice care, it can be provided along with curative treatment, and it eases the burden of caregivers as well as patients.

Known predominately for its hospice services, Gulfside Healthcare Services has become the premier hospice, palliative care and skilled home health provider in Pasco County, Pinellas County and beyond. And it is the only provider of all three — the continuum of care — in Pasco County. With Gulfside’s palliative care team, the focus is to enable the patient to live life to the fullest with a health care plan tailored to their needs. This process starts with a one-on-one consultation with a holistic focus — on the patient and their life, not just their illness.

The benefits of palliative care are wide ranging, and include:

Pain and Symptom Control The palliative care team will identify sources of pain and discomfort for the patient. These may include problems with breathing, fatigue, depression, insomnia, or the bladder or GI tract. Then the team will provide treatments that can offer relief.

Communication and Coordination The Gulfside Palliative Care team understands the importance of communication between the patient, their family and their doctors in order to ensure their needs are met. This includes setting goals for care, providing assistance with decision-making and coordination of care.

Emotional Support Palliative care focuses on the entire person, not just the illness. The team members caring for the patient will address any social, psychological, emotional or spiritual needs they have.

Family/Caregiver Support Caregivers experience a great deal of stress too, so the palliative care team supports them as well. This focused attention helps ease some of the strain and can help the patient with decision-making.

Medicare, Medicaid and most insurance plans cover all or part of the palliative care treatments patients receive, just as with other hospital and medical services. This includes medication, medical equipment, medical supplies, and more. If you are concerned about costs, a social worker or financial consultant from Gulfside’s team can assist you with payment options.

Is it time to consider palliative care? If you’re not sure, review this list of indicators that you or your loved one might be ready for palliative care:

• Chronic condition or illness that is not yet terminal

• Frequent ER visits or hospital admissions for the same condition

• Declining ability to complete activities of daily living

• Chronic home oxygen use

• Weight loss

• Difficulty controlling pain, symptoms and emotional state

• Limited social and home resources and service support

• Elderly, cognitively impaired and declining

• Patient and family uncertainty regarding prognosis or goals of care

Currently, non-hospice palliative care is provided at Gulfside’s clinic locations, and at several hospitals and nursing homes, with more locations coming in the future. If you’d like to learn more, including Gulfside’s locations in Pasco and Pinellas counties, visit gulfside.org; or request a consultation at (727) 484-7990.

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