• Jake Kielmeyer

Palliative Care: How Treating Total Pain Leads to Higher Quality of Life

Since the first use of medicine, caregivers have been healing the sick, mending the broken and creating a brighter and healthier future. Traditionally the focus of healthcare was strictly on treating symptoms and curing ailments. But today, a more holistic approach has been created to help improve a person’s overall well-being. Palliative Care.

Palliative care is an interdisciplinary holistic approach to caregiving for people with serious illnesses like Alzheimer’s, AIDS, Cancer, and other conditions. Unlike Hospice care, Palliative care also includes a curative approach for treatable diseases.The primary goal of palliative care is to reduce patient discomfort and increase quality of life by tailoring care to each person’s unique needs and conditions. Palliative Care does this through a comprehensive approach that focuses on decreasing a patient’s “total pain” to improve their quality of life by focusing on all the factors of their distress. Total pain includes psychological distress, physical discomfort, spiritual pain and more, to measure a person’s overall well-being. By focusing on total pain, caregivers are better able to improve quality of life by treating each factor individually. For example; a palliative caregiver might provide a Priest or Rabbi for a patient who is experiencing spiritual pain related to their condition. If a patient is experiencing psychological pain, they could be accommodated by working with a mental health expert. Seemingly small measures can have benefits for patients and drastically improve their outlook.Things like finding a wig for a chemo patient, playing with dogs or other animals, and even something like a makeover can have a big impact on a person’s emotional well-being.

A recent study in January of this year found that Palliative care reduced intensive care in hospitals by up to 10% (US News How Palliative Care Remade End-of-Life Care at New York Hospitals). This same study also found that a 4% decrease in end-of-life ICU saves care centers up to $265 million annually in the US. Jama Network Open published this information on January 8th, 2020. There are more than 1,400 Palliative care providers in the United States and you can find one near you here.

Palliative care could very well be the leading caregiving method in the coming years as the focus of healthcare continues to shift from just treating symptoms to improving the quality of life and providing comfort to patients and their families.

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