Have you been diagnosed with a serious illness and wish you had more help? You’re not alone. Many times, people with serious health problems have doctors to help them with their medical condition, but they don’t know who to turn to for extra support and care. Hospice care may be an option for some, but what if you don’t need or want hospice yet? Well, the answer may be in an emerging specialty called palliative care.
What is palliative care?
Palliative care is an approach that improves the lives of patients and their families who are facing serious or life-threatening illnesses — such as cancer, congestive heart failure, kidney disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and many more.
This type of care focuses on prevention of and relief from suffering. Palliative care can be used to treat pain, but it also addresses physical, psychological, social, or spiritual needs. For example, fatigue, depression, loss of appetite, shortness of breath, or trouble sleeping.
Palliative care may be appropriate for people of all ages and in all stages of illness. Patients who receive palliative care can continue treating their illness as they normally would.
Where can you get palliative care?
Wouldn’t it be nice if palliative care was something you could get from the comfort of home? Independence Blue Cross (Independence) covers in-home palliative care for eligible Medicare Advantage members at no cost to the member. That’s right…eligible members pay $0 out-of-pocket.
Independence’s model of care involves a multidisciplinary team, led by a board-certified palliative care doctor. Other members of your team may include nurse practitioners, registered nurses, social workers, and counselors. Services are provided both in-home and by phone, and someone on the team will be available to you 24/7.
How can it improve your quality of care?
Patients dealing with serious or complicated health issues may say that the problem isn’t receiving too little health care — it’s receiving too much. Or, the care they’re receiving is confusing and disjointed. Many wish they had just one team to handle all their questions and care.
In the best-case scenario, your primary care doctor might be able to provide this for you. But given the complexities of health care today, a busy primary care doctor often can’t provide all the answers. They may not be able to come to your home. They don’t have a social worker or chaplain on their staff. They may not have specialized knowledge about how to manage pain. These are a few reasons why your primary care doctor may welcome the idea of you receiving palliative care, with a palliative care doctor checking in on you at home.
If you’re an Independence health plan member and you think you might benefit from palliative care, I encourage you to discuss it with your primary care doctor. You can also call the Customer Service number on the back of your member ID card to speak to a registered nurse Health Coach, who can tell you more about palliative care and help you decide if it would be right for you.