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Supportive Care

CHOC Children’s supportive care services provide physical, emotional, social and spiritual care for our patients and families. We focus on improving quality of life, symptom management and if necessary, end-of-life care. Supportive care is available to patients and families who are dealing with a serious or life-limiting illness, whether it’s during inpatient or outpatient treatment at CHOC, or at home through our partner TrinityKids Care.

Learn more about our supportive care services and frequently asked questions about supportive care.

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Our compassionate supportive care services are offered alongside a patient’s treatment process.

CHOC has specially trained doctors, nurses, case coordinators, social workers, psychologists, a chaplain, child life specialists, a Chinese medicine practitioner and a pain team. Together, they work to meet the unique needs of our patients and families. Supportive care is available throughout the hospital, including in the neonatal intensive care unit, pediatric intensive care unit, cardiovascular intensive care unit, emergency department, medical/surgical unit, Neuroscience Unit and Hyundai Cancer Institute.

Our supportive care services include:

  • Pain and symptom control. Our team steps in when a child’s symptoms, such as pain, nausea or seizures, have increased or are not controlled by usual methods. We may use other medications as well as non-medication methods such as comforting music, a favorite movie or therapeutic massage. Our goal is to find balance between symptom relief and meeting the patient’s and family’s goals.
  • Integrative medicine. CHOC offers the region’s only hospital-based and pediatric-focused complementary and alternative medicine program, led by a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner. Treatments such as acupuncture, aromatherapy and massage are seamlessly integrated into a patient’s care and are backed by evidence-based medical standards.
  • Spiritual care. Our spiritual care services are available during business hours for all patients and their families. Our chaplain can also arrange visitation with community clergy from your particular faith tradition. Learn more about our spiritual care services.
  • Psychological therapy. Sometimes, it just helps to talk. Our psychologists spend as much time as needed with patients and families to work through situations and cope with feelings. They use a number of other integrative medicine treatments as well, including hypnosis, belly breathing, guided imagery, mindfulness and biofeedback. Learn more about our psychology services.
  • Perinatal consultations. When parents find out during pregnancy that their baby has a life-threatening or life-limiting diagnosis, our supportive care team can meet with your family before the baby is born to help create a loving birth plan. We can also begin discussing the many decisions to be made for your baby going forward.
  • Developmental services. Our team includes occupational therapists who support families and teach them soothing ways to interact with their babies or non-verbal children. They also help with non-medication pain relief and feeding assistance to improve quality of life and help with bonding among the family.
  • Child life services. Our child life specialists provide therapeutic activities and comfort measures for patients. They also work with families to help them find the right words to explain difficult news to children. Learn more about our child life services.
  • Social services. Our social workers offer counseling, teach coping skills, answer questions and are also available during times of crisis. They act as advocates on behalf of our patients and families. Learn more about our social services.
  • Bereavement support. Losing a child is devastating. Our team understands that every family will prepare for and mourn the death of their child in a different way. We are by your side every step of the way. If your baby was in the NICU, a lactation specialist can work with the mother to help suppress her breast milk and stay as comfortable as possible. If your child had the support of TrinityKids Care, you will be followed by a social work team who specializes in bereavement for 13 months following the loss of your child. We also offer bereavement support groups for families who have lost a child. Learn more about our bereavement support groups.

If you would like supportive care for your child or family, please ask your doctor or nurse to arrange this for you.

Frequently Asked Questions about Supportive Care

Supportive care, or pediatric advanced care, is also known as palliative care. This type of care provides physical, emotional, social and spiritual care for our patients and families, in addition to traditional medical treatments. The focus of these services is on improving quality of life, symptom management and if necessary, end-of-life care.
Supportive care is a way to manage symptoms and improve quality of life during chronic or life-limiting illnesses. Hospice care falls under the umbrella of supportive care and provides similar services at the end of a patient’s life. Our supportive and hospice care services can be provided alongside regular medical treatments.
There is always something that can be done for your child. Our team will talk with you and help you determine the most important goals for your child and your family. We will support you in meeting those goals and making decisions for your child that show how much you love him or her.
Sometimes the things we hope for change. If your child’s life is expected to be limited, then it is helpful to take things one day at a time and hope for symptom-free days, happy times with family and friends, a day at the beach, and simply adding life to the days your child is living and not just adding days to a life that includes suffering.
Our team helps families recognize the signs of pain or discomfort in a child. These signs may include tension around the eyes or mouth, or a “worried look” on the child’s face. By knowing these signs, we can respond with medication and non-medication treatments to help ease a child’s pain.
Yes. We will work to find just the right dosage that achieves a balance of pain relief and quality of life. We also offer many non-medication treatments for pain, including distraction and complementary and alternative treatments such as acupuncture and massage.
The dying process is different for each child. We help educate families on the physical symptoms of the process, keeping in mind that feelings and stress may make the symptoms appear differently to each person.
There are many ways to alleviate as much suffering as possible. We always strive to minimize suffering in our patients using a combination of many different treatments.
Most of the time, a child knows when their life is coming to an end. If your child asks you directly, honesty is usually what they are looking for. Our team will work with both the child and family to ease the fear of answering this difficult question.
No. Our team supports a patient’s and family’s hopes when deciding the location of end-of-life care. There is no wrong way to handle this stage of life, and we will respect and support your decision, understanding that it may change. TrinityKids Care Hospice provides an expert team who can come to your home and support you if you choose for your child’s transition to occur at home.
It is very natural to have uncertainty when a family has a sick child. Our psychologists work closely with families to help them cope with questions such as: How will l live without my child? If we change the focus of treatment to comfort, how will I tell my family? How do I know I tried everything? We give families the opportunity to process feelings about all of these topics and more. There is no easy answer, but we provide support to help families get through this difficult time.

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UC Irvine

CHOC Children's is affiliated with the UC Irvine School of Medicine