Palliative care physicians are one of several medical professionals who use their knowledge of human health and specialized education in serious illnesses to provide care and support to people living with cancer, neurodegenerative disorders, and other severe conditions. They focus on making children as comfortable as possible by targeting the side effects of the illness, rather than the illness itself, and help improve the child’s quality of life by combating the emotional and physical effects of living with a serious condition.
This can include prescribing pain medication, speaking with the child’s primary care physician about new treatment options, and working with a team of nurses, therapists, and other professionals to explore other care resources, among other actions. When you begin palliative care services for your child, you’ll be working closely with one of these physicians as part of the care process. Here’s what you can expect from this the palliative care process and how it can benefit your child and family.
Palliative care physicians are sources of extensive knowledge about your child’s condition. As a result, you should always expect clear communication from them. The physician will be able to explain your child’s diagnosis and stages of illness, describe palliative care options, and make recommendations to you about how to best care for your child when a member of the care team is not present. Palliative care physicians should also be willing to communicate with the care team to coordinate complementary therapies and with you and other family members to understand your child’s needs and give them the best quality of care possible.
Addressing Questions and Concerns
No matter what questions you have about your child’s treatment, palliative care, and illness — and there will likely be many — a palliative care physician should be able to either answer those questions themselves or help connect you with other medical professionals and resources that will. Thanks to their vast network and experience, palliative care doctors are valuable sources of information who can help you make better decisions for your family and assuage any concerns you might have about your child’s quality of life. Be sure to speak with your child’s palliative care physician as soon as possible if you have any questions or concerns about their care and treatment options to give the physician time to help you come to a solution or provide information as necessary.
A Child-Centered Approach
Child-centered care takes the needs of the patient into deep consideration. While this should be standard practice for all forms of medicine and healthcare, many people often feel ignored or mistreated when dealing with their doctors. A palliative care physician’s primary goal is the child’s comfort, making patient-centered care an integral part of palliative care. When it comes to providing pain management support, mental healthcare, and other types of support, a palliative care physician should always be asking themselves how to best provide for this particular child’s unique needs and those of their family. To do this, regular conversations with children and families about their needs, discomfort, expectations, and goals are of utmost importance. These factors can change as the illness evolves, so it’s essential for physicians to keep these conversations open and ongoing.
Support for Families and Caregivers
In addition to providing expert care for children facing serious illnesses, palliative care physicians also provide support for family members and caregivers. This includes connecting families with spiritual and mental health resources, if desired, to help them discuss and manage their own feelings in a caring environment. Siblings and caregivers can especially benefit from these resources, as siblings often feel ignored in the wake of a brother or sister’s diagnosis and caregivers spend a significant amount of time with the child, who may slowly worsen.
Choosing a Palliative Care Physician
Speak to KidsCare of the Rockies for more information about the role of a palliative care physician in pediatric palliative care. Palliative care physicians make up part of a specially educated team of nurses, therapists, counselors, chaplains, and volunteers who provide individualized and child-centered care designed to meet your family and child’s needs. With this care, your family can experience a higher quality of life as you navigate your child’s illness together with the help of knowledgeable medical professionals.