Palliative care is basically the prevention and treatment of pain. It does not aim for a cure, per se; it aims, instead, for relief. And - although anyone suffering from any disease can receive palliative care - it's most often associated with hospice.
Hospice, of course, is different than hospital. People go to hospitals, generally, in search of a cure. People go to hospice when there's no hope of a cure, so they can die in a comfortable, homier atmosphere.
Palliative care, in a very real way, helps ease the process of dying... which, of course, is a part of life. It doesn't postpone death, by causing people to linger with untreatable illness. But it doesn't hasten it, either.
Palliative care in a hospice setting usually involves a team of specialists, ranging from doctors to clergy, to treat pain and its symptoms, and to provide a psychological or emotional approach when warranted. And it works; most families who experience the death of a loved one in hospice say it's better than passing away in a hospital.
Yet, many people don't take advantage of hospice - even though it's paid for by Medicare.
We often tend to think of a loved one's death as the worst thing that could happen. But I would suggest that there's one thing even worse - a loved one dying badly. What do we mean by "badly?"
According to Dr. Ira Byock, director of Palliative Medicine at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire, dying badly is "Dying while suffering, dying connected to machines." Dr. Byock believes that, if we deny an imminent death, we can become delusional, and can start acting in ways that can actually harm our loved one.
These are very difficult questions. But we can help.
For more information, we encourage you to download our FREE "Consumer's Guide to Hospice Care", which reveals answers to some of the most frequently asked questions concerning Massachusetts hospice care.
At the Estate Planning & Asset Protection Law Center of Dennis Sullivan & Associates, we help people and their families concerned with losing their homes and life savings to increasing medical and nursing home costs, taxes and the costs and time delays of probate. We also protect clients from losing control of their own health and financial decisions.
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