Jody Comart, Ph.D., Director of Palliative Care, provides pastoral counseling to patients and families, offers training for staff in end-of-life care, and is leading the effort at Hebrew SeniorLife to develop palliative care through clinical, educational and community initiatives.
Dr. Comart addresses three common myths associated with palliative care and provides a clear understanding of this specialty.
"Palliative care may be one of medicine's least understood specialties, but families facing difficult treatment decisions should be aware of services that can provide meaningful improvements in quality of life," explains Dr. Comart. At Hebrew SeniorLife, palliative care is an essential component of treatment in our post-acute and long-term care communities. Here's a look at some common myths.
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% 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.