Creating Waves of Awareness
When someone receives the diagnosis of cancer, there is shock to the system. The person feels their mortality. There may be a loss of hope about their future. The diagnosis emotionally effects everyone in the family, extended family, friends and neighbors.
Care given to help patients cope with cancer symptoms or treatment side effects is called palliative care, comfort care, supportive care, or symptom management.
Physical. Common physical symptoms include pain, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, and insomnia. Many of these can be relieved with medicines or by using other methods, such as nutrition therapy, physical therapy, or deep breathing techniques. Also, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or surgery may be used to shrink tumors that are causing pain and other problems.
Emotional and Coping. Palliative care specialists can provide resources to help patients and families deal with the emotions that come with a cancer diagnosis and cancer treatment. Depression, anxiety, and fear are only a few of the concerns that can be addressed through palliative care. Experts may provide counseling, recommend support groups, hold family meetings, or make referrals to mental health professionals.
Practical. Cancer patients may have financial and legal worries, insurance questions, employment concerns, and concerns about completing advance directives. For many patients and families, the technical language and specific details of laws and forms are hard to understand. To ease the burden, the palliative care team may assist in coordinating the appropriate services. For example, the team may direct patients and families to resources that can help with financial counseling, understanding medical forms or legal advice, or identifying local and national resources, such as transportation or housing agencies.
Spiritual. With a cancer diagnosis, patients and families often look more deeply for meaning in their lives. Some find the disease brings them more faith, whereas others question their faith as they struggle to understand why cancer happened to them. An expert in palliative care can help people explore their beliefs and values so that they can find a sense of peace or reach a point of acceptance that is appropriate for their situation.
After Death. Some care may be given to the survivors to help them cope through losses.
I love what Dr. Diane Meier of Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, who directs the Center to Advance Palliative Care, says about caring for the patient. In palliative care, one of the discipline's greatest benefits is that it looks at the patient as a whole.
"Patients see a different person for every single part of their body or every problem. The patient as a whole person gets lost," said Meier, who won a MacArthur fellowship for her palliative work. "The patient is a person, not a problem list, not a list of different organ systems with different problems, not a list of different diseases. So we end up serving in a quarterback role for the entire medical system." Source NYT June 2012
This lightbulb that goes off in physician's heads may bring them closer to understanding the role of homeopathy both in palliative care AND healing care.