About a half-dozen people learned recently that palliative and hospice care is much like medical insurance, but that it alleviates the emotional burden of a terminal illness instead of the financial one.
This was the message of Dr. Edward W. Martin, chief medical officer at Hope Hospice and Palliative Care Rhode Island, at a presentation sponsored by SNA April 13 at Summit Commons.
Dr. Martin, who has about 30 years experience in the field, said the concept of comforting the dying and ensuring the quality of life they have left is fairly recent, having developed in the 1980s. Up to then, he said, medical care had been focused on avoiding death and there was little organized support for families facing the end of life of a loved one.
Beginning in Connecticut and then growing into Rhode Island, hospice care employs a core of professionals who work 24 hours a day, seven days a week to visit patients at home and guide families through aspects of care and emotional support. Palliative care focuses on patients who have longer prognoses, yet both types usually die in the comfort of their own homes. Dr. Martin cited a Dana-Farber study that found that patients with palliative care actually lived longer than patients who had only medical care.
If a patient is facing less than six months of life, Dr. Martin said, the family and the medical community must realistically face the formulation of goals centered on what is best for the loved one. Hospice or palliative care is increasingly an answer, he concluded.
The presentation was part of a series of discussions sponsored by SNA about topics of interest to the community.