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Why Isn't All Care Like Palliative Care?

Why Isn't All Care Like Palliative Care?

Recently I heard a speech that made me want to stand up and shout “That’s It!!!” like Linus in the Charlie Brown cartoon.  The event?  A plenary session at the Grantmakers in Health 2015 Annual Conference.  The concept that nearly moved me to embarrass myself in front of a large group of people?  Palliative Care, as presented by Diane Meier, Director of the Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC).

As describe on the CAPC website, “Palliative Care sees the person beyond the disease . . . It focuses on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of a serious illness.  It is a fundamental shift in the focus for health care delivery . . . The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family.”1  

It’s not that I didn’t know what palliative care is.  What Dr. Meier helped me see is that every person with a serious illness should have access to care that gives truthful information about prognosis, as well as benefits, risks, and side effects of potential treatment. Most of all, providers should ask the patient what is most important, given the information that has been shared.  It is only then that a coordinated care plan is developed that includes support ranging from medical treatment to meals and transportation. 

But this kind of care shouldn’t just be limited to those who are fortunate enough to live in a place with a palliative care program.  Anyone with a serious illness should have ready access to this approach to care.  How we can make this happen across our country?

And what was the real “THAT’S IT!!!” moment?  It was when I thought about what it would be like if all health care was delivered using the palliative approach.  Palliative care focuses on helping people to live with their illness or condition in the best way possible so that they can achieve their own goals based on their own lives.  Wouldn’t that be a “fundamental shift” that we all could benefit from?

1 I have added the bold to the text for emphasis.

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