Palliative care is an interdisciplinary medical specialty—often involving doctors, nurses and counselors—that is concerned with impeccable symptom management and supportive care inclusive of family members for patients facing serious and life-limiting illness at any stage. It focuses on the amelioration of physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual suffering. Serious illness is best defined as a health condition that carries a high risk of mortality and either negatively impacts a person’s daily functioning or quality of life or excessively strains his or her caregivers. While generally this is thought of as cancers, organ failures such as heart or kidney failure, or neurodegenerative diseases, it should be noted that several epidemiological studies have shown significantly increased all-cause mortality in patients with chronic pain, depression and anxiety disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The use of complementary and integrative medical approaches in palliative care is well-supported in the field, with training programs and academies including training and education on integrative modalities such as meditation, acupuncture, and use of phytomedicines and supplements for palliation. Palliative care specialists are skilled in pain and symptom management, advanced care planning; goals of care discussions, end-of-life care; and POLST (Physicians Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment) and DWD (Death with Dignity) form completion. We provide this integrative medical care with coordinated in-house co-management of patients with a palliative medicine specialist alongside a naturopathic medicine physician and mental health specialists.