Three Signs Your Loved One Needs Palliative Care

May 2, 2024

As a hospice provider, our mission is to provide compassionate care for individuals facing serious illness. In this article, we will explore the signs that indicate your loved one may benefit from palliative care.  

While palliative care may be provided for any patient facing a serious illness, our palliative care team at Tri Cities Chaplaincy provides care specifically for those who are near to requiring hospice assistance.  
Whatever your situation, this article is designed to help you understand the benefits of palliative care and the signs that your loved one may benefit. 


Understanding Palliative Care 

Before discussing the signs, it’s important to understand what palliative care entails. Palliative care is a specialized medical approach that focuses on enhancing quality of life for individuals with serious illnesses. Unlike hospice care, which is typically provided in the final stages of life, palliative care can be offered at any point during a serious illness – regardless of the prognosis. The primary goal of palliative care is to provide relief from symptoms, pain, and stress, while simultaneously ensuring that emotional, psychological, and spiritual needs are addressed. At   

At its core, palliative care aims to enhance the overall well-being of patients and their families by promoting comfort, minimizing suffering, and supporting the patient’s individual goals. Palliative care teams consist of a multidisciplinary group of professionals who work together to provide comprehensive care. This includes managing symptoms, coordinating treatments, facilitating communication among healthcare providers, and providing emotional and psychosocial support to both patients and their families.  

When it comes to managing symptoms, palliative care takes a holistic approach. This means that the care team not only focuses on physical symptoms, but also addresses the emotional, psychological, and spiritual aspects of the patient’s well-being. For example, if a patient is experiencing severe pain, the palliative care team may not only prescribe pain medication, but also provide counseling or other therapies to help the patient cope with the emotional and psychological toll of the pain. 


The Difference Between Palliative Care and Hospice 

 Although often confused with hospice care, palliative care differs in several key aspects. Palliative care can be provided simultaneously with curative treatments, and it can continue even if the patient’s condition stabilizes or improves. On the other hand, hospice care is typically reserved for individuals with a life expectancy of six months or less. While the ultimate goal of both palliative and hospice care is to enhance quality of life, hospice care explicitly focuses on end-of-life comfort and support.  

Another important distinction between palliative care and hospice care is the timing of their initiation. Palliative care can be introduced at any stage of a serious illness, while hospice care is usually initiated when curative treatments are no longer effective or when the patient decides to stop pursuing them. This means that palliative care can be integrated into a patient’s treatment plan from the time of diagnosis, providing ongoing support and symptom management throughout the course of the illness. 



Recognizing the Signs of Needing Palliative Care 

Now that we understand the essence of palliative care, let’s explore the signs that may indicate your loved one could benefit from it: 

  1. Physical Symptoms and Changes 

Serious illnesses often bring a host of physical symptoms. Difficulty managing pain, nausea, shortness of breath, or fatigue are all signs that palliative care may be beneficial. Palliative care teams specialize in symptom management and will work closely with healthcare providers to address pain and other physical discomforts effectively. By implementing a personalized care plan, palliative care professionals can help alleviate suffering and enhance comfort, enhancing quality of life. 


  1. Emotional and Psychological Changes 


As a serious illness progresses, individuals may experience significant emotional and psychological changes. Anxiety, depression, and feelings of hopelessness are common. Palliative care teams recognize the impact of these emotional challenges and offer essential support. By providing counseling services, emotional support, and assistance in coping with the emotional toll of illness, palliative care specialists can help patients navigate these difficult emotions. Additionally, they also provide support for families who may be experiencing emotional strain. 


2. Social and Communication Changes 

 Dealing with a serious illness often requires extensive communication and decision-making between patients, families, and healthcare providers. Palliative care teams are skilled at facilitating these conversations, ensuring that patients and their families have the information they need to make informed decisions regarding their care. They can also provide guidance on accessing community resources, support groups, and other forms of assistance that can ease the burden on patients and families. 

Furthermore, palliative care professionals understand the importance of maintaining social connections during times of illness. They recognize that isolation and loneliness can exacerbate the emotional distress experienced by patients. Therefore, they actively encourage patients to engage in social activities and maintain relationships with loved ones. Palliative care teams may organize outings, social events, or even facilitate virtual gatherings to ensure that patients have opportunities to connect with others and feel a sense of belonging. 

Moreover, palliative care specialists understand that effective communication is crucial in providing comprehensive care. They not only assist patients and families in understanding medical jargon and treatment options but also ensure that their voices are heard and respected. Palliative care teams prioritize open and honest communication, creating a safe space for patients and families to express their concerns, fears, and preferences. By fostering effective communication, they empower patients to actively participate in their care decisions and ensure that their values and goals are respected throughout the treatment process. 


The Role of the Family in Palliative Care 

 When a loved one is facing a serious illness, family support becomes paramount. As a family member, your role is vital in advocating for your loved one’s needs. Here are a few ways you can contribute to the palliative care journey: 

Family involvement in palliative care goes beyond just providing physical assistance; it encompasses emotional support, decision-making, and communication with healthcare providers. By actively participating in your loved one’s care, you can help improve their quality of life and ensure their wishes are respected. 


Supporting Your Loved One’s Decision 

It’s crucial to respect your loved one’s autonomy and choices throughout the process. Encourage open and honest communication, ensuring they feel empowered to voice their preferences and make decisions that align with their values and goals. By providing emotional support and actively listening to their wishes, you can help create a more fulfilling palliative care experience. 

Additionally, supporting your loved one’s decision-making process may involve exploring alternative therapies or treatment options. Researching different approaches and discussing them with your loved one and their healthcare team can lead to a more personalized care plan that addresses their unique needs and preferences. 


Communicating with Healthcare Providers 

 A strong alliance between the palliative care team and the patient’s own healthcare providers is essential for coordinated care. As a family member, you can play a crucial role in facilitating effective communication. Share important medical information, ask questions, and ensure that everyone involved in your loved one’s care is on the same page. This collaboration will optimize the treatment plan and ensure the best possible outcomes. 

Furthermore, being actively involved in discussions with healthcare providers can help ensure that your loved one’s care plan is regularly reviewed and adjusted based on their evolving needs. Your insights and observations as a family member can provide valuable input that complements the expertise of the medical team, leading to a more holistic approach to palliative care. 


Navigating the Transition to Palliative Care 

Transitioning to palliative care can feel overwhelming for both patients and their families. Here are some strategies to ease this process: 

  1. Discussing Palliative Care with Your Loved One 

Initiating conversations about palliative care may be challenging, but it is crucial for the well-being of your loved one. Encourage open and honest discussions, focusing on their goals and desires for their care. Assure them that palliative care will work alongside their curative treatments, enhancing their comfort and quality of life. 


2. Preparing for the Palliative Care Journey 

Supporting your loved one during the transition to palliative care requires planning and organization. Gathering medical records, making a list of questions and concerns, and discussing financial aspects are some essential steps to take. Doing these preparations together can help alleviate stress and foster a sense of support and understanding. 


Resources and Support for Palliative Care 

When it comes to palliative care, accessing resources and support is crucial for both patients and families. Here are some avenues to consider: 


  1. Finding the Right Palliative Care Team 

Locating a qualified palliative care team is essential for providing the highest level of care for your loved one. Consult with healthcare providers and ask for recommendations. If you are looking for palliative care in the Tri-Cities, Tri-Cities Chaplaincy is a not-for-profit hospice and palliative care provider in Richland, Kennewick, Pasco and surrounding areas in Benton County and Franklin County. Online resources and directories can also be helpful in identifying reputable providers in your area. 


2. Understanding Insurance and Financial Aspects 

As a nonprofit, we understand that managing the financial aspects of palliative care can be daunting. If you don’t have access to a dependable nonprofit hospice and palliative care provider in your area, familiarize yourself with your loved one’s insurance coverage and any potential out-of-pocket expenses. If needed, consult with a financial planner or explore local organizations that offer financial assistance to individuals facing serious illnesses. 


3. Coping Mechanisms and Support Groups for Families 

Caring for a loved one with a serious illness can undoubtedly be challenging. Finding coping mechanisms and seeking support are crucial for your own well-being. Look for local support groups or online communities that offer a space for sharing experiences, emotional support, and practical advice. Remember, you don’t have to navigate this journey alone. 



 Recognizing the signs that indicate your loved one may benefit from palliative care is a crucial step in ensuring their overall well-being. By understanding the purpose of palliative care, recognizing the signs, involving the family, navigating the transition, and accessing proper resources and support, you can make a significant difference in their care journey. Remember, palliative care aims to enhance quality of life, providing comfort, support, and guidance every step of the way. If you believe palliative care may be needed for you or your loved one, contact your medical provider or reach out to Tri-Cities Chaplaincy today to learn more. 


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