Goals of Care
Palliative care for children aims to improve quality of life for the pediatric patient as well as for their family. This is done through expert management of pain and other physical symptoms such as shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, and anxiety. It is also done through emotional and spiritual support services, offering the patient and family specialized counseling to help them cope with the roller coaster of emotions that result from dealing with a serious illness or condition.
Pediatric VS Adult Palliative Care
Because the causes of illness and death for children are so different from those of adults, pediatric palliative care goals and treatments are also different. Physicians and parents are faced with difficult decisions regarding the benefits of medical technology versus the burdens and their impact on quality of life. Parents and doctors must work closely together to make decisions that best benefit the patient while holding true to the values of the family.
Pediatric palliative care must also focus on the family structure more than is necessary for adult palliative care. Because it is so difficult to accept the mortality of children, parents may struggle emotionally and be unable to cope. There may be siblings or other young children in the home that are going to be impacted by the child’s illness in some way. The palliative care team will be looking for signs of stress within the family unit and will provide interventions as necessary.
When is Palliative Care Appropriate for My Child?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) supports an integrated model of palliative care "in which the components of palliative care are offered at diagnosis and continued throughout the course of illness, whether the outcome ends in cure or death." Reserving palliative care for children who have exhausted every curative treatment and are dying would mean that many other children would miss out on the benefits that palliative care can offer. Including children who have a life-threatening illness or condition but are still be receiving curative treatment ensures that all children who can benefit from palliative care have access to it.
If you think your child and your family might benefit from palliative care, talk with your doctor about options. For tips and resources on finding palliative care in your area, please visit Finding Palliative Care.