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Supportive care describes medical treatment that is focused entirely on the comfort of the patient. Although it is often used in terminal cases, it can be appropriate with any disease with no known effective treatment, including many anxiety disorders and infections. It can be range from constant nursing care on a 24 hour basis to merely providing immediate support to a patient when required, such as during an acute attack of their condition.
Supportive care is generally based around the patient's abilities. For example, many patients may be bedbound and require assistance with everything from feeding to normal bodily functions such as urination. However, others may be fully ambulatory and able to care for themselves except during acute attacks.
Some conditions where supportive care is the only option are:
- Conditions that affect mobility, such as paralysis, ALS and Guillain-Barre syndrome. In many of these cases, the patient is not in pain and otherwise has full control over their consciousness.
- Anxiety disorders such as hypochondria. In many cases, patients merely require reassurance and attention.
- Acute viral infections, such as Ebola and influenza, where patients must be kept hydrated, cooled and as comfortable as possible while the disease runs its course.
- Terminal cancer, often where pain management is the most important consideration.