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Palliative Care Myths & Misconceptions

Palliative care is often misunderstood – even by members of the medical community. Unfortunately, palliative care myths and misconceptions can prevent patients and families from accessing palliative care and its many benefits.

For instance, did you know the following facts about palliative care?

  • Patients can receive palliative care at any point during serious illness – not just at the end of life.
  • Palliative care is not just physical care. It also includes emotional and spiritual support, among other services.
  • Palliative care is provided by experts to improve patients’ quality of life, enabling them to make the most of each moment.

If you responded “no,” don’t worry! Read on to learn more truths about palliative care – and bust the common myths surrounding it.

Palliative Care Myth

The first misconception is that palliative care is only for people who are dying.

Palliative Care Fact
Patients can receive palliative care at any stage of a serious illness. The goal of palliative care is to provide an extra layer of support and increase patients’ comfort by addressing their physical, social, emotional, and spiritual needs. Palliative care should therefore start early in the course of illness – to reduce symptoms and suffering from the beginning, and thereby enable the best possible quality of life for the longest amount of time.

In other words — palliative care is to keep living, for as long and as well as possible.

Palliative Care Myth

Another palliative misconception is that it is another name for hospice care.

Palliative Care Fact
Hospice care is simply a form of palliative care that’s given near the end of life, when the patient is expected to have six months or less to live. However, not all palliative care is hospice care. Palliative care can be given to patients who still have many years to live, including those who may recover from their illness. Read more about palliative vs. hospice care >>


What is palliative care?

Palliative care provides comfort and symptom-relief to people with serious illnesses.

It treats pain and other effects of the person’s disease and/or treatment, including emotional, social, practical, and spiritual issues.

Palliative Care Myth

Another misconception is that palliative care is just for people with terminal cancer.

Palliative Care Fact

Palliative care can help people with virtually any serious condition – at any stage of illness — including terminal cancer. For example, palliative care is for people with kidney, liver, lung and heart disease, diabetes, dementia, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and rheumatoid arthritis, among many others. People of any age – including children — can receive palliative care.

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Palliative Care Myth

It’s a misconception that people cannot receive other types of treatments, such as chemotherapy, surgery, or dialysis, while receiving palliative care.

Palliative Care Fact

Patients receiving palliative care that is not hospice care can also receive other types of treatment for their illness. In other words, non-hospice palliative care is given alongside treatments intended to cure, control, or modify the person’s serious illness.

Palliative Care Myth

There’s a misconception that palliative care makes the person die sooner.

Palliative Care Fact
Palliative care does not hasten death. It helps the patient stay as comfortable as possible, from the start of a serious condition until the end of life. In fact, people who receive palliative care often live longer than those with the same advanced illness who do not receive palliative care, studies show.

Palliative Care Myth

Another palliative care misconception is that doctors and nurses are not experts in the field.

Palliative Care Fact

Palliative care is a growing field. Physicians can become board certified in hospice and palliative medicine. Nurse practitioners can earn ACHPN credentials and become an Advanced Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse. Nurses can receive CHPN credentials and become a Certified Hospice and Palliative Care Nurse. Read more about Samaritan’s expert medical team >>

Palliative Care Myth

Palliative care is only available in hospitals, is another common thought.

Palliative Care Fact
Palliative care can be given anywhere the patient lives: at home, in a long-term care facility, in a hospice center, in the hospital, or in an office setting.

Palliative Care Myth

Palliative care means my doctor has given up hope for me.

Palliative Care Fact
Palliative care is an extra layer of support to help you maintain quality of life, navigate the healthcare system, and explore treatment options. It’s a type of care that helps provide the best possible quality of life throughout the course of your illness. And even in situations where there may no longer be hope for a cure, palliative care helps shift the focus to new goals – centered on living each moment as fully as possible.

“People who receive palliative care have a better quality of life — and in many cases live longer — than people with the same advanced illness who do not receive palliative care, according to scientific studies.” – Stephen Goldfine, MD, chief medical officer

Palliative Care Myth

Palliative care is only for pain.

Palliative Care Fact
Pain from serious illness is a common reason to seek palliative care. But, palliative care also treats many other symptoms and challenges caused by advanced illness. These can include nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, anxiety, depression, restlessness, spiritual distress, constipation, diarrhea, loss of appetite, swelling, itching, insomnia, and other issues that may affect the patient’s and family’s quality of life.

Palliative Care Myth

Palliative care will cost my family a lot of money.

Palliative Care Fact
Palliative care visits are covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and most commercial insurers with applicable co-payments and deductibles.

Palliative Care Myth

Once I start on palliative care, I will stop seeing my other doctors.

Palliative Care Fact
Palliative care providers work with your other health care providers to help manage your symptoms and enhance your quality of life. They do not replace your other providers. The palliative care team will collaborate with your primary-care team or specialists to create a treatment plan.

For more information about palliative care in South Jersey, please call Samaritan Healthcare & Hospice at (855) 337-2808. You can reach us 24/7.