Palliative care is specialized care for people who have a serious illness. It’s an extra layer of support that Northwest Kidney Centers provides to our patients and their families at our 20 clinics in the Puget Sound region.
The goal is “to help people with serious illness live as well as possible for as long as possible,” says palliative care expert Dr. Steven Pantilat of University of California, San Francisco.
Why palliative care matters
This highly personal care considers the whole person, treating the medical condition along with the emotional, spiritual and psychological aspects of chronic disease. Because palliative care seeks to remove the barriers to living well, it can be transformative while being different for most every individual and family.
“What matters most to patients is how to live well with the optimal quality of life,” says Dr. Dan Lam, medical advisor to Northwest Kidney Centers’ palliative care program, “and that varies from patient to patient.”
Palliative care involves honest and possibly hard conversations among patients and families about the things that are most important to them and about the realistic possibilities in pursuit of those things. Palliative care offers an authentic hope because it is a hope grounded in reality.
Watch Dr. Pantilat’s insightful and inspiring patient stories in a talk he gave in May 2021 at Northwest Kidney Centers HopeBuilders Livestream.
Recognizing its profound impact on patients, Northwest Kidney Centers was among the first dialysis providers to create a dedicated palliative support team in 2017. The team, made up of a physician board-certified in palliative care and nephrology, a nurse and a social worker, works in close partnership with dialysis care teams.
Palliative care and hospice
Hospice and palliative care are closely related. In fact, hospice can be considered a form of palliative care.
Both types of care provide comprehensive comfort care for patients as well as support for their families. Both can be provided in any setting—home, nursing home, assisted living facility or inpatient hospital. Palliative care may begin at the time of diagnosis and can be provided along with curative treatment.
The difference is that with hospice, attempts to cure the person’s illness are stopped. In such instances, palliative care can transition into hospice or continue with an increased emphasis on comfort care.