“So much of palliative care is about anticipation,” says Andrew Thurston, MD, FAAHPM, medical director of palliative care at UPMC Mercy. “It’s about recognizing patterns in medicine and helping patients and family members think about what’s coming.”
Understanding the way illnesses progress and communicating in an empathetic way are the cornerstones of palliative care. Having these conversations early on in a diagnosis has proven benefits to patient quality of life and mental health.
Common misperceptions about palliative care — including that it somehow means giving up on life — present major obstacles to the field.
Palliative care providers can help ease the physical, mental, and spiritual burden serious illness often puts on patients and their caregivers.
But many people think of palliative care as a last resort or an off-ramp after treatment can no longer stave off the effects of a terminal illness. That’s far from how palliative care specialists conceive of the practice and obscures the many benefits of engaging palliative care early on in a serious diagnosis.
Common misperceptions about palliative care — including that it’s only meant for people with cancer or heart disease, or that it somehow means giving up on life — present major obstacles to the field.
If we raise awareness about palliative care, we have the potential to develop more compassionate, patient-centered care that can help alleviate the physical and emotional pain of serious illness.