Palliative Care

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Palliative care is defined as all of the services given a person that eases the transition from life to death. Palliative care includes but is not limited to, pain management and management of physical symptoms, but it is much more than physical. Palliative care also includes caring and sympathy for emotional suffering, loss and bereavement.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines palliative care as the “active total care of patients whose disease is not responsive to curative treatment.” Palliative regards dying as a normal process. It does not hasten or postpone death. It provides relief from pain and other symptoms of distress. Palliative care integrates the psychological and spiritual aspects of patient care. It offers help to patients to live as actively as possible until death. Palliative care also serves as a support system for the family, to help them cope with their own bereavement during the patient’s illness.

It has been said that too many people live and die in pain. 40% of the elderly cancer patients in nursing homes are in pain. 50% of those in hospitals who are seriously ill have a significant amount of pain during the last days of their lives. Only 20% of Americans die in hospice, which is a program designed for all elements of palliative care. Minorities and women are less likely to receive optimal pain management than others. The elderly are also disproportionately under treated for pain.

Today diseases like cancer, AIDS, end-stage renal disease, end-stage COPD and many others that are described as incurable can benefit largely from palliative care. Very few people are equipped to talk about death and dying and the hopes and fears associated with death. Many of our seriously ill patients suffer spiritually and psychologically and end up dealing with their grief, fears and loss of control alone. To live with chronic pain for years can bring about hopelessness, loneliness and a sense of futility. Palliative care can help solve a lot of these problems if used as intended.

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