When your child is diagnosed with a serious illness, the numerous terms used to describe their medical care needs and treatment can be overwhelming. Two important forms of care to know about are curative and palliative treatment. Each type of treatment offers a different type of care and should be used based on your child’s specific needs as their illness changes. With the help of your child’s medical team, you can determine the best times to use palliative and curative treatments to give your child the best quality of life possible. Here’s what you should know about palliative vs curative care treatments and how it can affect your child and your family.
What is Palliative Care?
Palliative care is designed to make children feel comfortable. It treats the many symptoms and side effects of their illness, rather than the illness itself. This includes pain management through medication and even massage, as well as mental health care in the form of counseling, spiritual guidance if desired, and various forms of therapy, such as play, art, and music therapy. When combined, these methods of care help improve a child’s quality of life as they manage their illness. For children with life-limiting illnesses, palliative care can eventually evolve into hospice care, which continues to make children comfortable during the last nine months of their lives.
Palliative care can be given in homes. It is also extended to the child’s family in the form of mental health and spiritual counseling, if requested. Caregivers, siblings, and other family members often deal with intense emotions as their loved one faces an illness, and the resources that palliative care provides can help them find comfort. Palliative care can also be a form of respite care: As their child receives support from their team of palliative care providers, family caregivers can take some time to rest and attend to other necessary tasks, helping them to feel recharged and relaxed when it comes time to resume their caregiving duties.
What is Curative Care?
Curative care is meant to treat the illness itself, with the goal of eventually returning the child to their usual health. This type of care varies depending on the child’s illness and its progression. Curative care can include chemotherapy, antibiotics and other medication, surgery, radiation therapy, and dialysis. The length of time that curative therapies are utilized and the combination of treatments suggested will depend on the severity of your child’s condition. An infection treated by antibiotics can be cured in as little as a week, while more serious illnesses can take months or even years to combat. It may also take additional testing and analysis to determine the proper combination of treatments, so curative care may not begin immediately after a diagnosis.
Palliative vs Curative Care
Palliative care can and should be offered at the same time as curative care. This means that while your child receives chemotherapy, for example, they should have access to medication to help ease the nausea that this form of treatment often brings about. While your child’s doctor can help you best determine which therapies to begin at what time, palliative care can typically begin as soon as a child is diagnosed, while curative treatment may take additional tests or appointments to plan. Being informed about the timelines of each can help you coordinate appointments and other forms of treatment.
Assessing which types of curative care and palliative care are ideal for your child will depend significantly on their needs and those of your family. For some, their illness presents few additional unpleasant side effects, and palliative care may not be a high priority. For others, their illness may cause enough physical discomfort and emotional distress to themselves and their families that palliative care becomes more important. With that being said, many doctors recommend palliative care for all serious illnesses because of the support and comfort it can provide. Curative treatments, meanwhile, are always implemented until the illness shows no signs of improving, at which point a referral to hospice care may be necessary. At this point, the illness has been treated through curative methods for as long as possible, and recovery is unlikely to occur. However, children can continually seek curative treatment in the hospice setting.
Seeking Palliative Care Services
Speak to KidsCare of the Rockies for more information about pediatric palliative care services. KidsCare supports children and families dealing with serious illnesses, including neurological diseases, cancer, heart conditions, and other disorders. The agency assembles teams of specially educated therapists, doctors, nurses, therapists, chaplains, and volunteers to provide personalized care for children and their families, helping them achieve a higher quality of life as they seek treatment for the illness. KidsCare can connect families with valuable resources, guidance, and other support to help make an often stressful experience smoother.