There are many unknowns when your child is diagnosed with a serious illness. What are the treatment options? How long will this illness last? How can you be sure your child and family are well-equipped to handle the illness? Pediatric palliative care may not be the answer to all of your questions, but it is a valuable resource that can help you navigate this difficult time and improve your child’s quality of life as they receive treatment.
During pediatric palliative care, which can take place while your child is receiving other medical treatment designed to cure their illness, a specialized team of doctors, nurses, therapists, child life specialists, and volunteers will work to ensure your child’s comfort. They will pay careful attention to your child’s physical, emotional, and spiritual needs, while taking the appropriate actions to help manage those elements and keep your child feeling their best. This can include everything from administering medication to helping handle pain and other side effects, to making time for art and play therapy. Providers typically customize each child’s care plan to singularly benefit them and ensure they receive the highest quality of care possible.
Average Length of Pediatric Palliative Care
Because pediatric palliative care is intended to provide comfort at any stage of diagnosis and is available for all patients, regardless of their stage or duration of illness, it is difficult to determine how long palliative care will last. Doctors typically encourage families to begin considering palliative care as early as possible after receiving a diagnosis, but it can be started and stopped at any point throughout the length of your child’s illness. As a result, the length of time your child will spend in pediatric palliative care is dependent on their unique situation.
If your child is facing a serious but not life-limiting illness, or an illness that leads to a slower decline, their time in palliative care can last several years. In other cases, children and their families choose to utilize palliative care for as long as aggressive treatment methods, such as chemotherapy, are used as a way to counter the often unpleasant side effects of these treatments.
Speak to your child’s doctor for more information about whether you should consider palliative care and how long they believe your child might benefit from this service. Check with your health insurance coverage as well to see if there are any time limits on how long the insurance company is able to provide coverage for palliative care services in out-patient settings.
Palliative care provides many benefits to children and their families, including a higher level of comfort, improved moods, better social interaction, less pain, and, for caregivers, more time to rest and get organized while their child is being cared for by a member of the palliative care team. Another one of its benefits may be reduced recovery times.
Pediatric palliative care is not intended to treat a disease. However, studies have shown that people who receive palliative care in conjunction with curative treatments are more likely to recover from their illness faster than those who choose to go without. While this is not necessarily true of all illnesses, palliative care may be able to spur recovery and allow your child to return to their everyday life sooner.
The Addition of Hospice Care
While palliative care can be beneficial, adding an additional layer of hospice care may be necessary in some cases. Insurers and Medicaid agencies will generally provide coverage for hospice care if your child’s doctor determines they have nine months or less to live, assuming their illness follows its normal course.
In hospice care, children can receive both palliative and curative (potentially aggressive) treatments; however, there will be a shift in focus to ensure your child feels comfortable. Hospice care typically takes place in your home or a facility and may look similar to palliative care, as it also focuses on spiritual, emotional, and physical support. Also keep in mind that, as your child’s primary caregiver, it is your choice to enter or leave hospice care.
Choosing a Palliative Care Provider
Speak to KidsCare of the Rockies for more information about pediatric palliative care services. Palliative and hospice care teams of specially-trained doctors, nurses, therapists, and more will work with your family to establish and implement a customized care plan that effectively meets your child’s needs. KidsCare also provides mental health and spiritual counseling for family members and caregivers of children receiving palliative and hospice services.