Healthcare is a broad church encompassing an enormous range of disciplines. From your local pharmacist to your cardiologist to your personal trainer there are a huge number of dedicated professionals out there with a passion for ensuring that each and every one of us has the best quality of life possible. And in an age where the science of healthcare is as advanced as it is, that’s quite a lot. However, there are few branches of healthcare as multidisciplinary, rewarding and downright important as palliative care. If you’re a healthcare professional involved in providing palliative care (or are thinking of becoming one) you likely spend a lot of time debunking persistent and unfortunate myths about this wonderful discipline.
If you’re new to the concept of palliative care, you may already have heard some of these myths, and you will hopefully find it edifying to see them debunked here…
Myth: Palliative care is only for people dying of cancer
While palliative care is predominantly geared towards advanced or life limiting illnesses such as cancer, this is really just the tip of the iceberg. Palliative care is not simply keeping the terminally ill comfortable in their final days (although that is an element of it), any member of staff at Spectrum Healthcare, who you can check out in this website, will tell you that a patient can spend years in palliative care. Palliative care is designed to alleviate the symptoms of illness or disabilities caused in cases where modern medicine is unable to alleviate the illness itself.
Myth: Palliative care gets people addicted to painkillers
It is true that pain relief is a huge part of palliative care. The operative word here is caring, and no health care professional in their right mind could allow a fellow human being to suffer pain needlessly. It’s also true that people can become addicted to painkillers. However, the kinds of illnesses that require palliative care often require hefty doses of pain medication for the sake of the patients quality of life. There is a universe of difference between using painkillers as a means to make life enjoyable and fulfilling and addiction.
Myth: Children should not be exposed to palliative care because they should be protected from death
Death is a natural part of life, and inevitably a part of palliative care. However, parents should not see this as a reason to think twice about providing palliative care for their child. Addressing the subject of death in a calm, mature and responsible way is an important part of human development. You’d be surprised by how readily children develop healthy and mature attitudes towards death.
Myth: Palliative care means that your doctor has given up on you
Nothing could be further from the truth. The purpose of a general practitioner is to help to make a diagnosis, provide treatment if they are able, and refer to a specialist if they are not able. A palliative care center is just like any other specialist. It is full of professionals trained specifically in treating the symptoms of advanced illnesses and working with patients and their families to ensure that they get the best quality of life available to them. Your doctor hasn’t given up on you, in referring you to a specialist, she is doing just the opposite.