Pediatric palliative care helps children dealing with serious illnesses feel more comfortable while they receive curative treatments. This includes a range of services, such as counseling, pain management support and more. Palliative care takes place in the child’s home. The comprehensive suite of options available means that families will find all the resources they need while caring for their child, thanks to the support of palliative care teams. Here’s how each element of a care team can help improve the quality of your child’s life as they face their illness.
Social workers are the coordinators of the care team. They listen to a family’s concerns, goals, and needs; discuss their current coping strategies; and learn about the family members’ daily lives in order to understand the best ways to support them. Then, they arrange for the right care team members and other resources to begin working with the family. This can include scheduling appointments, speaking with doctors about new concerns, and otherwise communicating with the care team to ensure the right support. Social workers also provide informal counseling to patients, siblings, and parents, who may otherwise find it difficult to talk to other family members and loved ones about their concerns.
Illnesses and their treatments can have significant effects on a child’s appetite and ability to retain vital nutrients. This can make them feel nauseous and fatigued, among other unpleasant effects, and impact their quality of life. Nutritionists who understand the unique needs of growing children and the toll an illness can take on them will help families develop a meal plan that addresses all of these concerns. They may recommend foods to combat nausea, provide needed vitamins for recovery, and more to ensure that the patient can remain strong and well enough to find enjoyment in their favorite activities. In this way, families can help their loved one recover and feel their best while they receive treatment.
Many families find comfort in their faith traditions, and palliative care teams can include chaplains to strengthen this connection. Pediatric palliative care chaplains can answer questions children may have about why they are sick and what happens after they die while providing families with spiritual support that can help them find strength. For non-religious families, chaplains can still provide support by helping them talk through their feelings about big, existential questions, or help them find hope and peace to make sense of what’s happening to their child. Most palliative care providers employ non-denominational chaplains who are comfortable speaking with families from a variety of faith traditions and backgrounds.
Art and Music Therapists
Children can sometimes find it difficult to express their own feelings about what’s happening to them when they’ve spent so much time at the hospital or stuck at home. Art and music therapists can help fulfill both of these needs through creative forms of therapy. By painting, drawing, and listening to or playing music, among other activities, children can spend some time enjoying a new activity with the therapist while getting the chance to discuss their feelings in a productive manner. Art and music therapy can also be a welcome distraction from the daily reality of living with a serious illness and give children something to look forward to if they are otherwise unable to enjoy old hobbies at this time.
Child Life Specialists
The medical field can be a difficult one for adults who are not educated in it to understand, making it harder for parents to have conversations with their children about their diagnosis and treatment plan. Child life specialists use a number of methods, including play, dialogue, and even music, to help. Children who understand what’s happening and what to expect next may be less anxious, fearful, or angry, so allowing a child life specialist to explain the situation in an age-appropriate way can help ease some of the strain on families as they help their loved one receive treatment.
Choosing a Pediatric Palliative Care Provider
Reach out to KidsCare of the Rockies for more information about pediatric palliative care or to see if your family qualifies for the agency’s pediatric palliative care services. KidsCare provides customized and comprehensive palliative care services to families handling neurodegenerative disorders, cancer, and other serious and life-limiting illnesses for a loved one. These services are designed to give families all the resources they need during this time, including a range of emotional and spiritual counseling options for parents, siblings, and family caregivers who need additional support while their loved one receives treatment.