-Kathy Johnson, PhD, CMC
The term “palliative care” invokes the tone of death knell though it isn’t just about dying. Below are 8 facts to know about palliative care:
- Improve all aspects of life: Palliative care is meant to improve a patient’s quality of life focusing on pain management and other symptoms such as trouble sleeping, nausea, vomiting, constipation and loss of appetite through psychological, emotional and spiritual support.
- Palliative care and treatment can co-exist: According to research, cancer patients who received palliative care with oncology care scored higher on mood and quality of life than those who didn’t.
- Specialists not compulsory: While complex cases are managed by pulmonologists, endocrinologists and cardiologists, even geriatricians and physicians can fill the role.
- Palliative care isn’t just for physical pain: Prolonged discomfort or even a simple feeling of emotional overwhelm often triggers a request for help.
- Hospice care doesn’t mean end of it all: Though hospice care doesn’t have treatments to aggressively treat disease or prolong life, some patient’s health stabilizes, or even improves, in hospice. Dr Diane Meier from Mount Sinai School of Medicine has several such instances.
- Clinician support can be hard won: Clinicians untrained in palliative care advocate more aggressive treatment, sending critically ill patients to the ICU and making them unable to convey their own wishes.
- Early conversations are critical: Discussion of a patient’s desires and values concerning medical care in certain situations — when a feeding tube or mechanical ventilation is needed to keep them alive can be difficult for families. Early conversations in such case soothe family stress.
- Asking doesn’t impede care: Many patients and families hesitate to inquire about palliative or hospice care fearing doctors may find their case hopeless or impart less thorough care.