Pediatric palliative care is compassionate and integrated medical care for infants, children, and young adults with a life-limiting illness. Palliative care focuses on relieving the stress and symptoms of discomfort from a serious medical condition, as well as improving the quality of life for both the child and the family.
The primary goal of pediatric palliative care is the alleviation of pain and distress. Pediatric palliative care specialists focus on the whole child and how their illness and treatment affects the entire family. Palliative care aims to promote comfort and wellbeing by focusing holistically on a child’s physical, emotional, spiritual and social needs, as well as the needs of the family. Palliative services can be offered alongside aggressive and curative medical treatments to address the side-effects of treatment. Children with congenital or chronic illness are also eligible to receive palliative treatment to assess and address the unique medical, social, and emotional needs of each child and family.
What is Pediatric Hospice Care?
While all hospice care is considered palliative, not all palliative care is considered hospice. In many cases, children are able to survive and thrive following the diagnosis of a serious illness. However, there are cases in which curative medical interventions are limited or unsuccessful. Pediatric hospice care provides an additional layer of palliative services to a child and family. A child can transition from palliative care to hospice care when physical symptoms become more difficult to manage, requiring more regular visits from the care team. The care team provides compassionate support to hospice patients and their families to enhance comfort and provide anticipatory guidance when a patient is facing the end-of-life.
Whether a child is enrolled in palliative or hospice care services, the care team will work side-by-side with the primary medical team, the patient, and the family to provide individualized, gentle, and supportive care.
How Does Pediatric Palliative Care Work?
Pediatric palliative care strives to alleviate the physical, emotional and psychological handicaps that impede a child from experiencing childhood while living with a serious illness. Pediatric palliative care teams help children and their families cope with the illness by alleviating symptoms, side effects of treatments, and other stressors that often prevent them from feeling at ease.
Pediatric palliative care teams manage common symptoms (pain, shortness of breath, depression, anxiety, etc.) through medical interventions and unique therapeutic techniques. They also work to provide clear, simple and comprehensive communication to support the family in selecting the most appropriate interventions that address the needs of the patient and family members. Medical decisions can be complicated and confusing. The palliative care team can offer practical advice for families for making difficult medical decisions. Understanding the treatments and interventions can help parents and caregivers feel more confident in their choices.
A significant component of pediatric palliative care is the focus on the family. The illness of a child can have dramatic effects on the entire family. With the support of an interdisciplinary team to address social and emotional needs, families receive the necessary support in order to best care for their child. Additionally, by centering care on the needs of the family, hospice care allows parents to choose treatment options that are in line with their values, culture or traditions. This improves the sense of wellbeing for both the patient and the family.
Who is Eligible for Pediatric Palliative or Hospice Care?
Pediatric palliative and hospice care are based on need, not prognosis. This means that palliative or hospice care can be appropriate for any children of any age or at any stage of illness, and for families who would like an additional layer of support as they navigate the medical care system.
Pediatric palliative care addresses a variety of serious medical conditions including cancer, neurological or genetic disorders, heart and lung conditions, prematurity, congenital anomalies and other medical conditions.
Who Comprises the Pediatric Palliative Care Team?
Pediatric palliative care programs employ specialized teams of physicians, nurses, clinical social workers, child life specialists, chaplains, creative arts therapists, and other professionals to provide all-encompassing palliative care. Each child receives a unique and personalized care plan that is tailored to the individual needs of the patient and the family. Together, the members of a palliative care team will take the time to get to know each child and family in order to provide family-centered compassionate care.
With a pediatric palliative care team in place, primary doctors can focus on treating a child’s illness, while the palliative team can exclusively focus on improving quality of life for the patient and family. This encourages a collaborative environment where decisions are made on behalf of the child’s needs and goals, and where interventions are always thoroughly explained and approved of by their primary caregivers. By combining the best aspects of medical treatment with hospice care, you can ensure that your child and family are getting the most comprehensive care available.
Contact a Pediatric Hospice Program
To find out more about the benefits of pediatric palliative/hospice care, contact KidsCare of the Rockies today. KidsCare of the Rockies is a pediatric palliative and hospice program that provides comprehensive care to children living with a chronic, serious, or life-limiting illness and their families. Learn how our compassionate, supportive pediatric team can improve the quality of life for your child and family.