Medical Monday: Palliative Care

Posted at 8:08 PM, Apr 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-18 21:08:56-04
Dr. Peter Johnson, is a gynecologic surgeon with Aurora BayCare. He’s also a palliative care expert within the health system. He joined us on “Wisconsin Tonight” to encourage everyone to have the conversation with loved ones.  
Palliative care is the aggressive, holistic treatment of symptoms and side effects to help patients live better during a serious illness. It focuses on managing pain and other symptoms, while also addressing a patient’s emotional, spiritual, cultural, social, and psychological needs. Individuals who seek palliative care cope with a broad range of illnesses including advanced heart, lung, and kidney disease, AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and multiple sclerosis.
This is different that hospice care. Hospice is end-of-life care. It emphasizes pain and symptoms management rather than curative treatment. It provides personalized care and a supportive community. Palliative care is for anyone with a serious illness. They can have it at any age and any stage of an illness, and it can be provided along with curative treatment.
Anyone who has been diagnosed with a serious, long-lasting disease or with a life-threatening illness, qualifies for palliative care. It can be performed along with the care a patient receives from his or her primary doctors.
You may start palliative care at any stage of your illness. You don't have to wait until the disease has reached an advanced stage or until the final months of life. The earlier one starts palliative care, the better. Your family physician can provide a referral to palliative care.
The best time to hold a conversation about palliative care is now. Discuss these matters well in advance of a health crisis. That way you are of sound mind and the plan has been well-thought out and a course of action charted before the health crisis. Make time to discuss palliative care and other advanced care directives during annual milestones like your birthday, annual physical or even during extended holidays like Christmas. It’s not important how you start the conversation, it’s important that you have the conversation. Your physician can offer more suggestions on starting the conversation.
For information, call Aurora BayCare at 866-938-0035.