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By Liza Horvath


Retaining Control Using Palliative Care


An evolution is taking place in the medical industry and, unlike most of the news we are hearing, it has nothing to do with the Affordable Care Act. Physicians remain focused on curing patients but now nearly 55 percent of hospitals, including our own Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, are now offering palliative care in addition to traditional medical services. Palliative care is often used with end-of-life hospice care, but it is now being increasingly used in conjunction with curative therapies to reduce the physical and emotional stress that is often associated with serious illness.  


“In conventional Western medicine, people can now decide for themselves, in collaboration with their doctor, how much pain medication they need. It turns out that when people know they have control over pain, they need a lot less medication, because often pain is actually made worse by the fear of pain,” says Ram Dass in his 2012 publication, “Polishing the Mirror.” Dass is referring to the growing acceptance of palliative care for those who suffer from treatable, chronic or life threatening illnesses.


The term “palliative” is derived from the Latin word, palliare, and means “to cloak” so not only is the care used to reduce current pain, but it can be used to mask the side effects associated with some therapies. A palliative care strategy is developed by the patient, the patient’s health care representative and a team comprised of the physician, nurse, and pharmacist, and can also include a social worker or chaplain. Additional members of the team may involve the hospital discharge planners or clinical dietitians. Ideally, the physician spends time at the onset discussing the disease and care options in detail so that informed decisions can be made for both the current treatment and for future treatments.


Each plan is unique to the individual but serious illness is often hard to accept and difficult to live with. Patients may feel lonely, angry or scared so most plans should include a forum for the patients to discuss any psychological or spiritual anxiety they may be having. In addition to counseling, drug therapy and relaxation therapy can be included. When a terminal patient is sent home “to die,” the patient is often provided with a morphine drip that they control – and that can ultimately speed the time of death. Irrespective of some of society’s expressed concerns that this practice could be called euthanasia, murder or killing, being in control of pain just seems humane.   


The best palliative care is prevention but if you or a loved one is already suffering with a serious or chronic illness, make sure palliative care is introduced to help reduce pain, alleviate stress and improve the patient’s quality of life – or, in some cases, ease death.

Liza Horvath has over 30 years experience in the estate planning and trust fields and is the president of Monterey Trust Management, a financial and trust management company. This is not intended to be legal or tax advice. If you have a questions call (831)646-5262 or email liza@montereytrust.com










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