Why Palliative Care Is a Global Concern
If you have a headache, you probably reach for the ibuprofen. But the discomfort of a headache is nothing compared with the pain associated with life-threatening illness. In those cases, over-the-counter medication isn’t nearly enough. And the pain people experience isn’t just physical.
To alleviate the pain and emotional distress of serious or terminal illness, palliative care is often necessary. The problem is, not everyone in the world has access to such care, leaving many to suffer needlessly.
What Is Palliative Care?
Palliative care is healthcare that’s centered on making the seriously ill feel better. While a part of palliative care focuses on alleviating physical pain, the practice is much more holistic than that. In addition to pain relief, teams of palliative care providers help patients through the emotional, spiritual, social, and even practical problems that the illness can cause or exacerbate. Palliative care can begin with diagnosis and continue through to end of life. Palliative care, however, is not the same as hospice care. People who are expected to recover can still receive palliative care during their illness.
Who Needs Palliative Care?
Anyone suffering from an illness that’s causing them serious pain and distress is a candidate for palliative care. In general, however, most palliative care patients suffer from life-threatening illnesses such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, lung diseases, kidney failure, diabetes, Parkinson’s, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and ALS. Because most life-threatening or chronic illnesses occur in people 65 and older, many palliative care patients are also geriatric patients.1
Who Provides Palliative Care?
The practice of palliative care is interdisciplinary. Depending on a patient’s needs, a palliative care team can include doctors, nurse practitioners, RNs, physical therapists, registered dietitians, social workers, psychologists, and clergy members. Those receiving palliative care can receive treatment from hospitals, home health agencies, long-term care facilities, or specialized medical centers.
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