3 Life Extending Effects of Palliative Care
Does palliative care extend life? First, we must define “life”. Are we talking about life expectancy or quality of life? Palliative care certainly improves a disabled person’s quality of life. But can it extend that person’s life expectancy? The short answer is yes, palliative care can extend a critically disabled child’s life expectancy. Now the question becomes how. Both sides are of the same coin, as in they are intertwined. Palliative care is a lifestyle improvement for both the disabled person and their family. There is no one specific blanket reason for prolonging someone’s life with palliative care. Everyone’s situation is different from one another. A study published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health says, “Early palliative care can improve quality of life, decrease depressive symptoms, and prolong life in patients with metastatic cancer.” Here are some examples of how palliative care can help extend someone’s life based on findings from that study:
1. Palliative Care Decreases Depression
Depression is 2-10 times more likely to impact people diagnosed with a life altering diability or serious chronic illness. In fact, it is once of the most common “Secondary Diagnoses” assosiated with several chronic illnesses. Finding purpose and meaning in a life that is often complicated by pain and loss of function can be a unique challenge, and the affect of depression on physical health is well established. Palliative care works to make life easier, more comfortable, and happier for patients. One study found that those who had received palliative care early were less likely to be diagnosed with depression. For every 8 patients who received early palliative care, 1 less patient was diagnosed with depression.
2. Palliative Care Directly Impacts Survival Rates
This study, which explored the effects of palliative care for those with lung cancer, found that of those those who died during the study, who were immediately given palliative care, survived an average of 3 months longer than those who did not immediately receive palliative care. This was despite the fact that those recieving palliative care were less likely to have recieved aggressive end-of-life interventions.
3. Eliminating Pain Helps Patients Live Longer
By eliminating the patient’s pain, or at least easing it, the patient will live longer. Cancer Council says that studies show when palliative care patients are relieved of pain, they tend to live longer. Making the patient comfortable is key. Sometimes this can be difficult if the patient can’t communicate well. This is where professionals come in to ensure that your child is as comfortable as possible and pain-free.
Research conducted by Tulane University in Louisiana shows that people with advanced cancers who received palliative care survived an average of 4 and a half months longer. The exact reasoning being this is still unknown. “Some believe that palliative care may help patients decide to stop treatments such as chemotherapy, which may be harmful toward the end of life. Another school of thought explains that palliative care helps patients have a more positive outlook on their diagnosis,” said Michael Hoerger, Ph.D., MSCR, assistant professor of psychology, psychiatry, and oncology at Tulane University, in an interview with CURE.
Each palliative care patient has unique needs. These needs can be broken up into three categories. Physical, emotional, and spiritual. Within these categories, Brades’ Place has five pillars of care. These are patient and family-centered care, medical connections, medical care coordination, multidisciplinary medical team, and education. Specific services offered by Brades’ Place include a dedicated phone line where families can ask questions at any time. Brades’ Place coordinates with the patient’s existing medical professionals, easing the communication burden from the parents. Brades’ Place identifies gaps in care. Brades’ place can help with any questions about the patient’s diagnosis. Brades’ Place prioritizes the emotional health needs of both patients and their family members. Through various partnerships, Brades’ Place provides access to home-based physical, occupational, and speech therapies. Brades’ place works with families to identify and clarify their values, goals, and wishes regarding their child’s comfort, function, and medical needs.