Myth: Palliative Care is for people who are at the end of their lives
Truths: Palliative care should be integrated early in disease process while disease modifying treatments are being offered to maximize quality of life and ease symptoms and suffering.
Myth: Palliative Care and Hospice are the same type of care
Truths: Although both types of care focus on improving quality of life of patient and family through expert symptom and supportive care, palliative care is offered to all individuals at any stage of disease while disease modifying or curative treatments are being offered. Hospice care is usually offered at the end stage of disease when curative or disease modifying treatments are no longer effective or felt beneficial by patient and physician. Additional information on hospice care is available.
Myth: Palliative care is only used to treat pain and they will just give me morphine
Truths: Pain is a common reason for a palliative care referral and sometimes opioids (pain medications) are prescribed for pain control. However, palliative care looks to use medications and non-medications to treat pain such as complementary therapies (massage, acupuncture, Reiki, pet therapy, etc.) and other types of non-pain medications that help with pain control.
There are many other symptoms an individuals could be experiencing that would qualify them for a palliative care consult: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, anxiety, depression, itching, restlessness…..to name a few.
Referrals are also made to help with non-physical types of suffer such as anxiety, depression, spiritual distress, and other concerns that may impact quality of life of patient and family.
Myth: Palliative care sounds like it would be expensive for me
Truths: Palliative care is a medical specialty just like every other in the medical field (i.e cardiology, neurology, oncology, etc.) In the community, insurance covers palliative care visits the same way they would cover other specialty visits. If concerned, contact your insurance company before scheduling a visit in the community.
Here at NIH, palliative care services are covered as with all other medical care if you are enrolled in a clinical trial.
Myths: When I work with palliative care, I will no longer see my other physicians
Truths: Palliative care providers are specialty trained consultants that work with your other providers to assist in the management of your symptoms and quality of life. They do not replace your other providers.
The palliative care consult team will work with your primary team to come up with a treatment plan.