Supportive care is an extra layer of support for patients with serious illnesses such as liver disease. The goal of seeing a specialist is to address your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs as well as the needs of the people in your life helping you.
Receiving supportive care by seeing a palliative care specialist can occur at any stage of one's disease. Most people find this additional care helpful. You still see your liver specialist to treat your disease but also explore ways to manage the day-to-day and live your best life possible. A palliative care specialist can work with you to help improve your sleep to decrease fatigue or find new ways to control pain so you can be more active. Supportive care can also help you work towards achieving your longer-term goals.
For providers: Learn about providing palliative liver care to patients
What is supportive/palliative care?
Supportive liver care is designed to help people live better while receiving treatments for their liver disease. It is a form of palliative care, which focuses on quality of life while living with an illness and can be provided at any age or any stage of disease. It is distinct from hospice, which refers to care that is often received by people who are close to the end of their life. Supportive care visits might include treating symptoms like pain or anxiety, addressing worries you and your loved ones may have about what to expect as you receive treatments for your liver disease, and discussing your values and preferences about the medical care you receive. This care can be provided alongside the care you receive from your liver specialists.
Is supportive/palliative care right for me?
Supportive or palliative care is for people at any stage of serious illness, at any age, and can be prescribed as soon as someone is diagnosed with a serious illness. You can receive palliative care alongside other treatments you may be receiving.
Talk to your doctor
Start by telling your doctor you are thinking about palliative care and would like a palliative care consult to see if this type of supportive care is right for you. Your doctor should be able to tell if palliative care is available in your area. Your insurance carrier may have specific requirements regarding palliative care referrals. It is important to talk to your doctor about what is important to you, as this may help your doctor align your care plan with your priorities.
Palliative Care Checklist
Here is a checklist you can bring to your doctor to start the discussion about integrating palliative care into your treatment plan.
Patient Stories: How Palliative Care Can Improve Quality of Life
Patricia Ramos, RN
"In my experience, Palliative Care providers provided comprehensive care with compassion and enthusiasm. Palliative Care helps patients and caregivers to navigate chronic illness, empowering them to be active participants in their own journey, embrace the good, identify challenges & work together toward common goals."
Kavitha Ramchandran, MD
Palliative Care Specialist
"It has been eye-opening to take care of patients with liver disease and hepatocellular carcinoma. Their palliative care needs can be complex and often includes social needs, pain and symptoms, as well as existential worries. I remember one gentleman - he had been living with liver disease for some time, but when he got HCC his life changed. He developed pain that he attributed to chronic back pain, but it was actually bone metastases. It was only when he saw me in palliative care that we were able to put all of this together for him and get him the care he needed for his cancer and his liver disease."
Manisha Verma, MD
Associate Chair for Research
Einstein Healthcare Network, Jefferson Health System
"I feel fortunate to lead a study in which palliative care is delivered to all patients with advanced liver disease and their caregivers willing to participate in research. I hope the results will help transform the care we deliver, empower patients to collaborate in decision making, and optimize quality of life."