Many people associate palliative care with end-of-life care, but palliative care isn’t just for people in the final stages of a disease. Palliative care is for anyone with a complex condition or illness, such as Parkinson’s, including people who’ve just been diagnosed.

Palliative care can help newly diagnosed people learn about Parkinson’s, manage their symptoms, plan for the future, and more.

As Parkinson’s progresses, that same palliative care team can minimize symptoms, adjust medications, recommend therapies and assistive devices, and provide mental health care. It’s an additional support system for people managing conditions like Parkinson’s.

Keep reading to learn more about how palliative care can help those with Parkinson’s.

Palliative care is a specialized type of support program for people with complex progressive and chronic conditions such as Parkinson’s disease.

Palliative care programs are provided by a team of doctors, nurses, physical therapists, and other medical professionals. The team focuses on goals such as:

  • minimizing pain
  • reducing symptoms
  • improving quality of life
  • helping to manage stress
  • providing emotional and mental health support
  • educating patients and their families about conditions
  • setting future goals
  • monitoring patients through the years as conditions progress

Palliative care provides additional support for people with Parkinson’s disease. It doesn’t replace your regular doctors and therapists, and you won’t need to stop any treatments or therapies you currently receive.

Palliative care programs can stay with you through the years. Doctors from your palliative care team can communicate with your regular doctor and other members of your broader medical team if needed.

Palliative care vs. hospice care: What’s the difference?

Often, people confuse palliative care and hospice care. However, these two services are very different.

Hospice care is end-of-life care. Hospice provides comforting and pain-relieving care for people with terminal diagnoses. Hospice patients generally have about 6 months left to live and have elected to stop all treatments. People receiving hospice care receive medication to help with symptoms such as pain, but no longer take medication that attempts to cure their conditions.

Conversely, palliative care can be started at any time and can be done alongside treatments. People can begin palliative care right after receiving a diagnosis and can work with a palliative care team while they are receiving curative treatment.

People with Parkinson’s can see many benefits from palliative care. The exact benefits will depend on your specific symptoms, but common benefits of palliative care for people with Parkinson’s include:

  • having help setting goals for your care and treatment plan far in advance
  • having the support you need to live your life in the fullest way possible
  • having a social worker on your team who can help you manage any life changes
  • having access to mental health care if you need to talk to someone
  • having dietary experts and nutrition resources accessible if your eating habits and nutritional needs change as Parkinson’s progresses
  • having aides who can assist with physical or daily living tasks if your ability to take these on independently declines
  • having healthcare professionals who can act as a channel of support between you and doctors and medical facilities
  • having nurses and doctors who can monitor you for changes in your medication effectiveness
  • having nurses and doctors who can monitor you for symptoms so that they can be addressed quickly
  • having railings and other supports set up in your home to help minimize your risk of falling
  • having speech therapists on hand to reduce any communication difficulties

You can start palliative care for Parkinson’s at any time. Palliative care can help anyone who has a complex and progressive condition like Parkison’s.

Although many people wait until their condition has progressed or until they are in the later stages of Parkinson’s to seek out an option such as palliative care, you might get more benefit from starting this care earlier.

That way, you’ll have a supportive team with you over the years that can help you manage your diagnosis.

There are multiple providers that offer palliative care programs.

Often, agencies that offer home healthcare, hospice care, or senior living programs, also offer palliative care. Your doctor might be able to recommend a palliative care professional in your area.

You can also use this palliative care directory to find one in your area.

Palliative care is covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and most other insurance providers. Many providers don’t list palliative care as a separate covered service but do cover the services of all the medical professionals who will be part of your palliative care team.

Normally, you’ll be responsible for your standard visit copayment or coinsurance cost for seeing these providers. For example, Medicare Part B will cover 80 percent of the Medicare-approved cost of most palliative care visits.

If you’re not sure about your coverage, the palliative care agency you select will likely be able to assist you. Most agencies have social workers and other professionals on staff who can help you navigate your insurance and the cost of care.

Palliative care can provide many benefits for people with Parkinson’s disease. Palliative care is not hospice care. It is not only for people in the end stages of a disease or for people at the end of their lives.

Palliative care is for anyone with a complex condition such as Parkinson’s. It works as an addition to the care you’re already getting from your regular doctors, therapist, and other healthcare professionals. You don’t have to stop receiving any of the care you’re receiving now to receive the benefits of palliative care.

Palliative care can give you additional support and resources to reduce your symptoms and improve your quality of life. You can start it at any time, and it’s generally covered by insurance.