Dispelling 5 Top Palliative Medicine Myths
Chapters Health dispels 5 top palliative medicine myths to help educate the community about what is true and what is false.
Top 5 Palliative Medicine Myths Debunked
Myth #1: Palliative medicine is end-of-life care and speeds up death.
Palliative medicine focuses on the effective relief of pain and other symptoms, while supporting the best quality of life for patients with serious illnesses. Palliative medicine is appropriate at any stage of serious illness and is often provided at the same time as curative therapies. In fact, patients who receive palliative medicine often live longer when they receive care from the palliative medicine specialist early in the course of their serious illness!
Another goal of palliative medicine is to help patients and their families better understand their illness, express their values, and explain what is most important to them, especially when their illness is very complex or advanced, so they are better able to make the decisions they might face if their illness progresses.
Myth #2: Taking pain medication causes addiction.
Patients with serious illness who need medication to control their pain do not generally become addicted. Sometimes patients with severe pain need an increase in their medication over time in order to control the pain. The increase is not due to addiction but a result of becoming tolerant to medication. When someone takes a drug for the “high” they get from it rather than for real pain, they may be addicted. The palliative medicine specialists are experts in pain management and carefully manages their patients’ medications so pain and other symptoms are both safely and well controlled.
Myth #3: If my doctor recommends palliative medicine he or she has given up and believes there’s no hope for me.
Palliative medicine is appropriate at any stage of serious illness and is often provided at the same time as curative treatments. A primary goal of palliative medicine is to improve the quality of life for patients. With this philosophy of treatment, we strive for reduction of pain and other symptoms (shortness of breath, nausea, anxiety, depression, severe constipation and others) and better treatment tolerance for patients. In fact, patients who receive early palliative medicineare found to have less pain and depression. When doctors recommend palliative medicine for patients with serious illnesses, they want their patients to live as fully as possible.
Myth #4: If I want palliative medicine, I will need to change doctors.
Not true. Palliative medicine s provided by a specialized medical team who serve as consultants that work along with the patient’s other treating physicians. Any patient who wants and needs palliative medicinehas the entire Chapters Health Palliative Care team working closely with his or her primary care physician and the other medical specialists. We discuss and develop an appropriate medical plan of care along with the other doctors caring for the patient.
Myth #5: Palliative medicine only benefits patients.
First and foremost, palliative medicine helps patients manage their pain and other symptoms; but at the same, family members benefit. How? Families feel a huge sense of relief when they see that their loved one is no longer suffering and finally able to eat or sleep or just participate in daily life. Families also have much less fear and anxiety when they better understand exactly what is happening with their loved one, especially when the patient is hospitalized or acutely ill.
These palliative medicine myths are just a few examples of the many misconceptions some have about palliative medicine. Our interdisciplinary Chapters Health Palliative Care team are experts in developing plans to meet patients’ needs and desires.
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