Preparing for End of Life Care is Important for You and Your Loved Ones
Most people cringe or shake their heads sympathetically when they learn that I am a hospice and palliative care doctor. “Oh, that must be so difficult and depressing for you. How do you do that and stay so cheerful and upbeat?”
On the contrary, the practice of palliative medicine is profoundly rewarding, and emotionally and intellectually gratifying – and its principles are at the heart of why I became a physician: To relieve suffering, provide comfort and improve quality of life.
Palliative care is the medical specialty dealing with the care of the seriously ill. In palliative medicine, the objective is not to cure disease, but rather to provide relief from symptoms and the stress of serious illness. For most patients with severe illness, once they come to grips with the realization that they have been diagnosed with a chronic or incurable affliction, their symptoms — due either to the disease itself or to its treatment — are the most life-altering and distressing issues.
Symptoms are a constant reminder that things are “not normal” and can become the source of a great deal of distress and significant debility and depression. For most people their symptoms become the disease, and relief from these problems restores a sense of normalcy and control, not only for the patient, but also for their loved ones.
Hospice care provides the same type of comfort-focused attention for people who are in the last stages of a severe illness. In addition to symptom management, hospice services offer compassionate social, psychological, and spiritual support to patients and their families. Hospice services enable people to stay in their homes where they are often most comfortable. Most hospice organizations in Capital BlueCross’ network offer both home care and residential services if staying home is not possible.
Like we’ve always been advised, whether regarding retirement, marriage or any of life’s significant decisions, the importance of planning ahead cannot be overemphasized. Care planning for the end of life is no different. An open discussion with your loved ones and physician about what type of care you want or do not want can greatly reduce the emotional burden for both the patient and their loved ones in making key care decisions about continued care.
To learn more about hospice and palliative care, or for additional information regarding care planning for serious illness, please visit the links below:
- Five Wishes Program (for care planning)
- Information and Resources for End of Life
- National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization
- Information on Palliative Care (for general information on palliative care)
Dr. Brad Davidson is a Medical Director with Capital BlueCross. He is board certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine. Dr. Davidson spent 4-years as a flight surgeon in the U.S. Air Force and completed his residency in Internal Medicine at the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center where he served as chief resident from 1997-98. He joined Capital BlueCross in late 2012 after more than 10 years as the medical director of the Home Based Primary Care program at Lebanon Veterans Administration Medical Center.