Thursday, July 5, 2007

Palliative care, as much for the living as the dying

Palliative care and hospice are near to my heart. I believe there should be more emphasis and more work put into making the end of life more comfortable for those who are about to pass on, as well as for those who will stay behind.

Palliative care isn’t about helping people to die; it’s helping people to live. People in a palliative care environment are encouraged to live each day and are given the tools to do so. From the myriad of pain relief methods to special whirlpool baths, the idea is to provide as much comfort as is possible. In most such places, families and friends are encouraged to visit and to help as much as they would like. By providing a home-like environment, the patients are given the opportunity to live their last days in pretty well any way the see fit.

When I worked as a nurse in palliative care, I often saw people who came into our residence much later than we felt they could or should have. Many people feel that they want to die at home, not realizing how difficult this can be on both them and the people in their family who are providing the bulk of the care. Or, the patients may have been in a hospital environment for too long, either not being referred earlier, or not being ready themselves to come to the residence.

Hospice care or palliative care also doesn't necessarily mean admission to a specialized unit; it could be care that is brought into the home by qualified healthcare workers. A recent study by Brown University, in the United States, shows that one in 10 people weren’t getting hospice care early enough. That means, these people weren’t receiving the care that would have made their lives more comfortable and maybe bearable.

Many people believe that hospices and palliative care units or residences are depressing places – most of the time, that’s far from the truth. While the reality of death and dying can’t be denied, there is so much more to life in a palliative care unit. There are families that reconcile, weddings, smiles, and closure. Of course, there are always the patients who don’t or can’t tie off the loose ends, or who leave this world without being able to finish what they started, but for the most part, the palliative care environment allows for the closure that so many families need.

I hope that this study helps make people realize the importance being sure that those who need palliative and hospice care get it in a timely manner. It’s the least we can do.

Today's News:
Study Shows 1 In 10 Hospice Patients Referred 'Too Late'
Nairobi hosts first women's AIDS conference
Just one cigarette can lead to addiction: study
Pre-implantation genetic screening reduces both ongoing pregnancy and live birth rates in over 35s
Surgery Is More Effective Than Other Treatments For Common Back Problem, Study Finds
FDA Approves First Drug For Treating Fibromyalgia

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