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Pediatric palliative care is a special type of supportive care for children facing a serious illness. Palliative care focuses on comfort and quality of life. The palliative care team works with the primary medical team to personalize care for the child and his/her family.
The main goals of palliative care for children with cancer and their families are to:
Palliative care assists in managing the many needs a child and family may have along the cancer journey: physical, emotional, social, and spiritual. For children with cancer, early supportive care is better. This not only improves quality of life during treatment, but it can also lead to better treatment outcomes.
Palliative care services are provided along with cancer-directed and cure-focused treatment. Care varies based on each situation, but it is always patient- and family-centered.
Palliative care resources help patients and families manage side effects of cancer and its treatment, cope with the stress of serious illness, understand information and care options, and be active in treatment and planning choices. Palliative care also promotes communication among medical team members to organize care and treatment.
Palliative can offer another layer of support at any time during a serious illness.
Palliative care specialists are trained to meet the needs associated with serious illness. The team usually includes a palliative care doctor, nurse, and social worker. However, many different health care professionals often work together in supportive care to meet the specific concerns of child and family. Palliative care can and should begin at the start of a child’s difficult illness journey.
A palliative care team may include:
The palliative care team does not replace a patient’s regular medical team. Rather, they serve as partners in providing optimal personalized care.
If a child’s doctor feels that palliative care could be helpful, he or she can make a referral for palliative care services. Services are often offered through the hospital or clinic where the child receives treatment. Some medical centers offer palliative care consultation as soon as a child is diagnosed with a serious illness. Families are encouraged to discuss palliative care with their doctors and find out what options are available. Many insurance plans cover the costs of palliative care. Many health insurance plans cover palliative care services, if you have questions a social worker can help answer financial questions. Hospice organizations in the local community are another potential resource for families.
Reviewed: June 2018