Palliative care is one of many unique care options that’s being provided at UT Health Austin. It’s a special program that combines the highest level of medical treatment with emotional and spiritual support for patients who are dealing with a serious illness like cancer. That’s just one aspect of support that patients receive from UT Health Austin’s Livestrong Cancer Institutes. Director of Survivorship for the Livestrong Cancer Institues, Elizabeth Kvale, MD, MSPH, shares the importance of palliative care for patients and caregivers with KXAN.
What is Palliative Care?
Palliative care is a branch in healthcare that delivers interdisciplinary, whole-person care to people who are dealing with a serious illness.
How can caregivers be involved in the palliative care process?
A UT Health Austin caregivers as a part of the unit of care with someone who is living with a serious disease. The care team understands that it is not just the person with the disease who is struggling to make difficult decisions. With palliative care, the team considers the whole family unit when thinking about how to support the individual and engage the caregivers.
What advice can you give caregivers?
“There are two big things”, says Dr. Kvale ” first of all, if you’re a caregiver for someone living with cancer or another serious illness, the most important thing you can do is take care of yourself. You really can’t help someone who’s living with disease, if you’re just running on fumes.”
The second thing is for those who may not yet be caregivers and those living with a loved one, Dr. Kvale recommends that you begin to have those conversations about what is important to you and what sorts of things bring meaning to your life. What are the decisions you might want to make if you were facing a serious illness? Because, she advises, it’s best to have those conversations before an illness affects your life.
How does the Livestrong Cancer Institutes incorporate palliative in its team approach?
The Livestrong Cancer Institutes have a novel approach to delivering cancer care, the program is designed so that every person with cancer is able to get palliative care if they need it. In most systems, patients may require a referral for palliative care. At UT Health Austin, it’s part of the whole team that delivers this innovative, wrap around care* for the person with cancer and their family.
The goal for team members is to make the process easier for patients with cancer. It is their belief that taking the work out of getting that care, the fear of going to a new doctor, the fear of making big decisions, and just focusing on improving quality of life, will ultimately extend the life of a person with cancer.
Benefits of Palliative Care
- Pain management
- Symptom control
- Psychosocial support
- Emotional and spiritual support
- Nutritional support
*UT Health Austin’s Livestrong Cancer Institutes is the recipient of the 2019 Innovator Award from the Association of Community Cancer Centers.