How Palliative Care Has Inspired my LifestyleKatrina Leonard Oct 6, 2020
Patients and providers may seek palliative care consultations when someone’s suffering becomes too great and they need an extra layer of support. Palliative care specialists work with patients to meet them where they are and to optimize comfort and quality of life. They get to know the patient as a whole. They ask a lot of questions. When they truly know the patient as a person and have an understanding of what means the most to them, they can help them navigate their care, make individualized decisions, and work toward goals.
When I first started my career in palliative care, I felt out of balance. I had always worked with children, but they had been healthy, able to communicate, play, and laugh. My patients mostly couldn’t eat or speak, and I found it difficult to connect. I did not want to leave my new career path, but I also sensed it contributing to my own suffering. How could I alleviate my suffering and bring balance? What was missing? What was most important to me? I missed playing with kids. I needed more lightness instead of the seriousness I faced at work. I considered my options and chose to add a job. I became a part time gym daycare provider. I was paid minimum wage and took care of healthy children while their parents worked out. It was a great solution for balance. It wasn’t long that I needed this, but it was my way of providing self-care, self-palliative-care. I surfaced from the new seriousness of my job and found the lightness, passion, and play with the seriously ill children.
I have asked myself questions used by palliative care specialists many times throughout my career. I position my choices in the context of my quality of life, my values, and my goals, always striving to optimize these three things as I move forward and as things inevitably change. I do this in my career as well as other aspects of life. Palliative care translates further than simply alleviating suffering, because it also focuses on quality of life and what quality means to the individual. When buying a house, I considered what were reasonable goals financially and with regards to location and time. I prioritized the things that bring me joy – windows, having a yard, being close to my family. I deprioritized the things that weren’t as important to me that may have been to someone else – size of house, fancy kitchen. I put my energy into finding a path that was a good fit for who I am as a person.
Every day, palliative care has a place in my life. It is not just my career and calling. It is my way of contextualizing my own decisions, goals, hopes, and dreams. It is a way to prioritize what is important to me and to be authentically myself. For me, palliative care is a mindset, a process, and an act of self-care.