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Palliative care is a multidisciplinary approach to specialised medical, dietary, physiotherapy and nursing care for people with life-limiting illnesses such as end-stage cancer or stroke or conditions requiring long term care such as Parkinson’s disease or dementia. The care focuses on providing relief from their symptoms, pain, physical and mental stress.

The goal of palliative care is to improve quality of life for both the person AND their family by providing comfort care and supportive care. This care can be given in the hospital, at a hospice or in the comfort of the patient’s home.

Here are some myths and facts surrounding palliative care.

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Image: Shutterstock

Myth #1: Palliative care is only for people dying of cancer

Fact: Palliative care can benefit patients and their families from the time of diagnosis of any illness that may shorten or disrupt their quality of life


Myth #2: Palliative care hastens death

Fact: Palliative care does NOT hasten death. It provides comfort and improved quality of life from diagnosis of an advanced illness until the end of life

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Image Source: iStock

Myth #3: Palliative care is often expensive and unaffordable

Fact: There are a range of care services catering to different needs and budget. You can choose to stay in a nursing home, join a shared-living community or even receive care at home from visiting palliative healthcare team which usually includes a doctor, nurse, dietician and physiotherapist

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Image Source: Solace Hospice

Myth #4: People in palliative care who stop eating die of starvation

Fact: People with advanced illness usually lose their appetite. Palliative healthcare team includes a dietician who prepares a nutrition plan for the patient. Terminal patients die from their illness and not from starvation

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Image Source: Visiting Nurse Association of Staten Island

Myth #5: Palliative care is only provided in hospitals

Fact: Palliative care can be provided wherever the patients live – at nursing homes, long-term care facilities and even at home

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Image Source: iStock

Myth #6: Morphine is administered to hasten death

Fact: Patient are kept comfortable from their pain using pain medication (analgesia) but they do not hasten death

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Image Source: US News

Myth #7: Taking pain medication in palliative care leads to addiction

Fact: Keeping patients comfortable often requires increasing doses of pain medication with time because of tolerance as well as disease progression. This is NOT due to addiction


Myth #8: Pain is part of dying

Fact: Although pain occurs in patients with advanced disease, they do not need to suffer this pain unnecessarily because pain can be controlled using pain medication

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Image Source: Kiplinger

Myth #9: I have let my family member down because he/she did not die at home

Fact: Sometimes the healthcare needs of the patient is more than what can be provided at home.  Providing the best care for the patient regardless of setting is not a failure

Myth #10: Palliative care means my doctor has given up hope on me

Fact: Palliative care provides comfortable and supportive care to ensure the patient is pain-free and lives a dignified quality of life

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