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July 22, 2020

How a palliative care team can improve quality of life

Caregiving Palliative Care

Content sponsored by IBC - Native (195x33)

Elderly female hand holding hand of young caregiver at nursing home. Pornpak Khunatorn/

For those who are diagnosed with a serious illness and don’t require or want hospice yet, an emerging specialty called palliative care may provide the additional support and care that’s needed.

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.

This article was originally published on IBX Insights.

About Dr. Heidi J. Syropoulous

I joined Independence Blue Cross in 2015 after practicing Geriatrics for nearly 30 years. In my current role I function as the medical liaison to our Government markets team, serving as a subject matter expert on clinical medicine and healthcare delivery. What I love about my new position is the opportunity to help an entire population of people through the benefits of their health plan.

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