August 28, 2010

Study Reveals Palliative Care Helps Extend Patient Life

by Levin & Perconti

An article in The Gazette, a monthly publication of the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, pointed to an interesting new study that suggests new methods that may help extend the life of cancer victims in nursing homes.

The research out of the New England Journal of Medicine specifically found that “palliative care” extended the length and quality of life of patients who had been diagnosed with lung cancer. According to GetPalliativeCare.org, the treatment is a medical specialty that includes a variety of techniques to improve the quality of life of patents facing serious illness. It focuses on intense communication with the patient, managing of pain, and coordination with personal development.

In other words, palliative care includes all of the components to patient care besides the basic treatments of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. The treatment is often confused with hospice care. While hospice care typically involves some palliative care, the two are not synonymous.

The research cited in the article revealed that patients with fast-growing lung cancer were happier and lived three months longer if they received treatment that included a palliative care component. In this case, the palliative care included pain management, legal support, religious support, and other services.

Our Chicago nursing home lawyers at Levin & Perconti fully endorse any strategy that is shown to improve the quality of life of residents living in these medical care facilities. Many residents ultimately receive abysmal treatment when forced to suffer at a bad nursing home. At many of these negligent facilities, even life-saving medical care is mismanaged, leading to injury and death.

Yet, it is important to remember that a nursing facility should provide more than just bare-bones medical care to keep an elderly resident alive. Instead, these facilities need to understand that elderly residents are often vibrant, mentally active, eager members of society who need stimulation, challenge, and excitement just as any other person does. Those needs and desires do not end once someone moves into a nursing home or once they are diagnosed with a serious illness. As this study suggests, providing those extra components of care can actually have health benefits. All nursing homes should explore whether their facility can use this new research to improve the quality of lives of their residents.