The Benefits of Palliative Care
This month, health care providers around the globe will be spreading the word about palliative care and its many benefits in light of World Hospice and Palliative Care Month.
What is palliative care?
Palliative care is care given to improve the quality of life of patients who have a serious or life-threatening disease, such as cancer. Palliative care is an approach to care that addresses the person as a whole, not just their disease. The goal is to prevent or treat, as early as possible, the symptoms and side effects of the disease and its treatment, in addition to any related psychological, social, and spiritual problems.
Palliative care is also called comfort care, supportive care, and symptom management because it provides an extra layer of support for people with any stage of cancer. It’s available at every step of the treatment process. Palliative care helps patients with issues such as pain, nausea, fatigue, sadness, anxiety, fear, doubts about one’s faith, self-care and mobility.
What it isn’t.
Palliative care isn’t hospice care. And it isn’t end-of-life care. Palliative care is for preventing or treating the symptoms and side effects of cancer, its treatment, and any related psychological, social, and spiritual problems. Hospice care begins when a cure is no longer the goal of care and the sole focus is on keeping the patient comfortable, calm, and with their loved ones.
Research shows that palliative care and its many components are beneficial to patients’ and families’ health and well-being. In recent years, some studies have shown that integrating palliative care into a patient’s usual cancer care soon after a diagnosis of advanced cancer can improve their quality of life and mood, and may prolong survival. The American Society of Clinical Oncology recommends that all patients with advanced cancer receive palliative care.
Palliative can help with cost of care. In an article in the Wall Street Journal, studies by Kaiser Permanente, for instance, found that such programs can save $5,000 to $7,000 per patient by preventing costly trips to emergency rooms (ER) and avoidable readmissions to hospitals. OHC’s program, “Call Us Early – Call Us First” has had similar results: reduced ER visits, reduced hospital admissions, reduced costs for patients, reduced costs for payors, improved patient outcomes, improved patient satisfaction, and reduced complications.
Again, it’s all about support. And there are many options available. The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) publishes a very helpful booklet about palliative care. It includes details about topics such as the palliative care team, how to talk about palliative care, and the costs and coverage. It can be downloaded at https://www.cancer.net/sites/cancer.net/files/palliative_care.pdf and is available in English and Spanish. You can also order copies in English at http://shop.asco.org/.
Sources: OHC, the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the Wall Street Journal.