EDISON, NJ - Palliative care is a vital and expanding area of health care delivery. It is comprehensive care that focuses on physical, emotional and social needs of patients suffering from chronic illness. Its goal is quality of life. The American Cancer Society defines palliative care as specialized medical care for individuals with serious illnesses. It allows teams of doctors, nurses, social workers and other health care professionals to work together to improve life for people of all ages with illnesses such as cancer, cardiac disease, respiratory disease, kidney disease, Alzheimer’s, ALS, and others.
The type of care that is offered by Palliative Medicine is more than simple medical care. Patients receive pain management through both pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic therapies, as well as methods to help physical, social and spiritual needs. Early integration of palliative care with appropriately timed transition to hospice is the new standard of care for those with advanced cancer.
We need to educate ourselves, our loved ones and health care providers on the benefits and need for palliative care. Unfortunately, nearly eight of ten respondents of a 2011 survey lacked knowledge of palliative care services. It is more than just end-of-life care. It is about alleviating pain and suffering associated with serious illness and thereby empowering patients and families to live their lives. Evidence shows that patients undergoing palliative care for lung cancer lived nearly three months longer than those receiving chemotherapy.
You should have access to palliative care as early as possible, if you or a loved one is suffering from a serious illness – even from the point of diagnosis. The World Health Organization supports early and thorough involvement with palliative care programs and therapies as a way to improving the lives of those undergoing care for cancer.
I am sponsoring legislation that would allow health care facilities to provide information and facilitate access to palliative care services. The purpose of the measure is to maximize the effectiveness of palliative care programs in New Jersey and to ensure that comprehensive and accurate information about such services are available to the public and health care providers and facilities.
Palliative care services comfort those undergoing serious illnesses and advanced stages of cancer. They give quality and relieve suffering at the most difficult of times. By empowering patients and families with serious illness, it can truly be said that we are saving lives.
Nancy J. Pinkin