Challenges and Solutions in Palliative Care: How Healthcare Providers Can Overcome Them
Palliative care is different from hospice care, but many people use the terms interchangeably, including medical professionals. This misconception is one major hurdle facing palliative care teams. Others include unclear expectations and a need for more access to care.
Challenge: Misunderstandings about What Palliative Services Do
Palliative care can be appropriate at any point during a chronic illness, and patients of any age can receive it. Conversely, hospice care is for patients who have an expected lifespan of six months or less.
People often hear the word “palliative” and think that this care is for those nearing the end of their life, scaring them away from seeking palliative care. However, patients with various health conditions can benefit from this type of care.
Illness and death have never been easy subjects to discuss. There is a lot to overcome when spreading more awareness about palliative services.
Solution: More Discussion, Less Stigma
Rather than tiptoeing around the subject, healthcare professionals should have better and open discussions about palliative and hospice care. They should also help patients understand the differences between these two types of care.
While most healthcare professionals understand the differences, they may not always realize that the terms confuse other people. When doctors bring up palliative services, they must explain what the services are and the differences between palliative care and hospice.
Challenge: Unclear Expectations
Palliative services can manage physical pain, emotional pain, anxiety, shortness of breath, diarrhea, and many other conditions. You can receive palliative services while undergoing curative treatment. However, too many professionals fail to discuss the whys, whats, and hows with their patients. For example:
- Why is the doctor recommending palliative care?
- What is it, and how should it help?
- Why now?
- Why palliative along with a curative treatment?
- How can the patient benefit from palliative care services?
Solution: Transparent Communication
Some physicians hesitate to bring up the possibility of palliative care because of misunderstandings about what it encompasses. If patients decline these services, doctors may not always rush to correct their misconceptions. Medical professionals often don’t explain their expectations for how palliative care could help the patient.
Medical professionals must be persistent. This can include a nurse, social worker, or doctor working on a patient’s case. Recommending palliative care can improve quality of life for a patient.
Challenge: Lack of Access to Care
Physicians tend to wait too long to recommend palliative care, or do not fully understand what it covers. Further, there are frequent shortages of palliative providers.
Solution: More Training, Earlier Referrals
Care teams should have at least one palliative specialist. This person can train other professionals in critical aspects related to palliative care services and help with patient and family relations. As doctors learn more about palliative services, they become more likely to recommend care as soon as they believe services are appropriate.
Find Out More about Palliative Care from Care Dimensions Healthcare
At Care Dimensions Healthcare, we offer palliative care services in Los Angeles County, Orange County, Riverside County, San Bernardino County, and other areas in Southern California. Contact us today to learn more about palliative care and other services that we can provide.