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Myths About Palliative Care

Palliative care may be one of medicine's least understood specialties, with many myths circulating about the services provided.

In reality, palliative care can provide meaningful improvements in quality of life, and families facing difficult treatment decisions should be aware of its services. At Hebrew Rehabilitation Center (HRC), palliative care is an essential component of treatment in post-acute and long-term care.

Here's a look at some common myths linked with palliative care.

Myth: Palliative care is the same as hospice care.

Fact: Unlike hospice, palliative care can be offered at the same time as treatments meant to cure disease or prolong life. It doesn't mean a patient has to stop aggressive treatments like dialysis or chemotherapy. The interdisciplinary palliative care team at HRC includes a physician, psychologist, clinical nurse specialist, social worker and chaplain. Each team member helps patients and families understand their care choices and the medical, social and spiritual implications of each path.

Myth: Palliative care hastens death.

Fact: Palliative care is about quality of life, not end of life. A 2010 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that lung cancer patients who had palliative care in addition to standard treatment lived an average of nearly three months longer than those who did not have palliative care. And their quality of life was better, with a 50 percent lower rate of depression even without the use of antidepressant medications. Palliative care can relieve symptoms like pain, shortness of breath, fatigue and anxiety.

Myth: Palliative care is only helpful during a medical crisis.

Fact: Meeting with a palliative care team before the point of crisis, and discussing advanced care directives and goals of care, can help seniors feel empowered and in control of their future medical care.

Above content provided by Hebrew SeniorLife in partnership with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.

Posted July 2012

Contact Information

Palliative Care Consultation Service
Department of Medicine
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
YA-109
330 Brookline Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
617-667-1320
617-667-2854

Contact Information

Hebrew Senior Life
1200 Centre Street
Boston, MA 02131
617-363-8000