New research shows that there is a great need for more palliative care programs across the country. However, something that seems to be enormously missing from many programs is neurological care.
The need for palliative care
Study after study has shown the efficacy of palliative care for patients and the need to expand services for patients who need them. The International Association of Research in Cancer published the World Cancer Report, and the World Health Organization published the Global Atlas of Palliative Care at the End of Life along with the World Wide Palliative Care Alliance. Both of these publications, along with many others, highlight the need for better palliative care options for patients going through serious medical adversity. Cancer patients mostly get palliative care when it’s clear that it’s the end of life, but the option needs to be available much earlier, when the patient is undergoing treatment.
Experts estimate that over 19 million people receive palliative care for serious and fatal diseases, with the breakdown of 38% with cardiovascular disease, 34% with cancer, 10% with COPD, and the remainder with other illnesses. Access to palliative care programs is enormously influenced by financial considerations and region, and there needs to be greater access for anyone who needs it.
How does neurological care play into it?
Experts in the field note that neurologists are often the managing doctor in a case where a patient needs palliative care. However, they are often not the doctors making those decisions, since the oncologists and cardiologists are the ones informed about options. The neurologist is often deeply involved in the patient’s care, as well as patients with neurological disorders who could benefit from palliative care but aren’t receiving it.
Palliative care vs. hospice care
People often mistake palliative care for hospice care, but they are different. A patient enters hospice care when there is nothing else the doctor can do to save his life. Patients enter hospice at the very end, to ease their suffering and help them feel comfortable at the end. Palliative, on the other hand, is given to any patient suffering illness at any stage, not the end of life.
Therefore, palliative care is enormously helpful alongside neurological care. Neurological illnesses are often incurable, and palliative care is meant to alleviate the pain and discomfort that goes along with serious illness. However, since neurological diseases are not immediately terminal, patients suffering from them are often left out of the palliative care loop. Studies show that most of these patients die at home, not in a hospice, and this may be due to the fact that hospice is not often offered to neurological patients. One study showed that half of patients with Parkinson’s Disease wanted discuss end of life issues with their doctor early in their diagnosis, but their doctors only discuss options at the end, if at all. Patients with neurological diseases may have different needs from those of cancer or cardiovascular patients, but those are often not taken into account with their palliative care options and discussions.
At Hudson View, we offer palliative care options to meet the neurological care needs of our patients, with a warm and dedicated staff of professionals to make each patient feel comfortable and well-cared for.