Palliative Care: An Essential Prescription for You and Your Family

Palliative Care: An Essential Prescription for You and Your Family

4 Reasons Why Palliative Care Matters to You and Your Family

The need for palliative care is growing in our national experience. As our population ages, more patients will require the support of comfort care through a medical crisis or their end-of-life journey. You or someone you love will most likely need palliative medicine in the coming years.

Yet many individuals and families remain unaware of its benefits. Families may be timid in requesting that a palliative medicine physician be included in the care team for a loved one. Moreover, not all hospitals have palliative care physicians on staff.

Dr. Timothy Ihrig

Understanding the numerous benefits of palliative medicine will inspire you to become a stronger advocate for comfort care, whether for yourself or for a loved one experiencing a medical crisis.

In his 2013 TEDx talk in DesMoines, Dr. Timothy Ihrig’s shares four compelling palliative care benefits for you and your family.

  1. Palliative care is truly patient-centered. It honors your values and beliefs. Palliative medicine cares for you as a whole human being—your physical, emotional, relational and spiritual needs—rather than focusing singularly on treating or striving to cure a disease. Palliative medicine can be delivered to you at home. If you’re like most adults, you’ll want to die at home. Palliative care can make that possible.
  1. Palliative care fosters a higher quality of life. A 2010 Harvard study of patients with late stage lung cancer found that patients receiving adequate comfort care experienced less depression and a higher quality of life through the end-of-life journey. In contrast, patients with the highest per-capita cost of care in the final year of life experienced the highest rate of suffering and depression. More care does not necessarily equate to better care for you or a loved one. Even within the context and constraints of a terminal illness or injury, patients with well-managed pain and symptoms can experience a high quality of life and achieve goals for their life.
  1. Palliative care promotes a longer life. The Harvard study also reported a 3–6 month longer life span attributable to effective symptom and pain management. Without appropriately managing symptoms and pain, patients die sooner. With the support of palliative medicine, a person’s focus can be shifted from just enduring pain and suffering during challenging courses of treatment, to living as well as possible. Even with a disease, you can live longer.
  1. Palliative care can make the end-of-life journey more peaceful for you and your loved ones. When pain and symptoms are well managed, both you and your family can focus on loving and supporting one another. Energy can be invested in healing relationships and finding spiritual peace. Crisis and trauma can be replaced by a peaceful passing.

Says Dr. Ihrig, “The system steals the patient’s opportunity to choose how to live within the context of whatever the disease. While we focus on disease, pathology, surgery and pharmacology, we miss the human being.” He goes on explain how our current healthcare delivery system does things to patients. Palliative care focuses instead on doing things for patients.

How do these insights impact you? As you express your wishes for future and end-of-life healthcare decisions, talk with your loved ones about advocating—even zealously—for palliative medicine. Suffering is not required. The journey can be peaceful and a beautiful death is possible.

A skilled palliative medicine physician can manage symptoms and pain. If the hospital where you or a loved one is receiving treatment does not have palliative care physicians on staff, seek out hospice care support and/or consider a transfer to a hospital with palliative care specialists.

Dr. Ihrig concludes his TEDx talk by stating: “Palliative care is the answer to engage with human beings to change the journey we will all face, and change it for the better. To my colleagues, to my patients, to my government, to all human beings, I ask that we stand, and we shout, and we demand the best care possible so that we can live better today, and ensure a better life tomorrow. We need to shift today so that we can live tomorrow.”

QUESTION: Have you or a loved one experienced the benefit of palliative care? Will you please share your story by adding a comment and sharing this post via social media?

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