Palliative care is not very well-known in India. There is lack of awareness and misunderstanding about Palliative Care. The misconceptions surrounding it often deter the patients and their families from actively seeking out palliative care.
So, we are making an effort to dispel the commonly held myths about palliative care and create awareness about it.
Myth 1: Palliative Care Hastens Death Fact: Palliative Care is a wholistic care delivered to people facing life-threatening or debilitating illness, in order to improve the quality of life of the patients and their families. It starts at the time of diagnosis of the illness and involves symptom relief. It enables the patients to undergo the curative treatment better. It also involves therapies to relieve the suffering of the patient and make them comfortable as much as possible.
Myth 2: Palliative Care Is Only For People Dying from Severe Illnesses Fact: Palliative care is not only for dying patients. It is also available for patients whose life is debilitated by severely acute, life-threatening or chronic illnesses. Since palliative care also includes therapies that relieve suffering, chronic patients can be better enabled to endure their curative treatments. Palliative care is about improving quality of life for all kinds of patients.
Myth 3: Palliative Care Can Be Provided Only in Hospital or A Hospice Fact: Palliative care can also be provided at home where the patient is most comfortable. When we set up palliative care at home, the care regimen is defined and overseen by the palliation specialist and extended by our Care Doctor. This way the patient continues to receive the attention of the specialist while being at home and surrounded by the family.
Myth 4: Palliative Care Means Doctors Have Given Up Fact: Palliative care is often recommended by doctors to ensure the patient is in best possible condition to endure the curative treatment. In fact, it means the doctors are focusing holistically on patient’s comfort, quality of life, and reducing the side effects of curative treatment.
Myth 5: Palliative Care Means There Is No Hope For Me Fact: Palliative care doesn’t necessarily indicate end of life. At different stages of the illness, palliative care has different objectives. During the early stages of the onset of the disease, palliative care provides relief from side effects of the curative treatment and makes the patient comfortable. It improves quality of life of the patient and provides psychosocial support to the patient and the family.
Myth 6: Palliative Care Is Provided Only for Cancer Patients Fact: Palliative Care is not just for cancer patients. It is available to all the patients who face a life limiting illness. This includes incurable or chronic diseases like COPD, illnesses that require long-term care like stroke, and age-related illnesses like dementia.
Myth 7: Palliative Care Is Only About Pain Relief Fact: Pain is one of the most common symptoms of chronic or terminal illnesses. But there are a whole lot of other symptoms that a patient experiences depending on the stage of the illness. It also includes side effects of the ongoing curative treatment. Palliative Care holistically deals with all the symptoms to provide comfort to the patient.
Myth 8: Pain Medication in Palliative Care Causes Addiction Fact: The administering of pain medication is done by a pain specialist who titrates the doses based on the patient’s pain levels. The dose is generally increased when either the patient’s pain levels have increased or their body’s threshold to respond to the medicine has increased. In either case, pain medication is adjusted to just give comfort to the patient and so is not addictive. Myth 9: Palliative Care Is Provided By A Single Specialist Fact: Palliative Care is a multi-disciplinary approach that involves different specialists from a wide range of fields. In addition to the physician, other specialties that are often part of the palliation team are nurses, occupational therapist, speech therapist, dietician, physiotherapist, pharmacist, bereavement counselors, etc. The composition of the palliation team will depend on the patient’s illness trajectory.