If your loved one has been diagnosed with a serious and life-limiting disease, you may have discussed the possibility they’ll need palliative care in the future. Palliative care is specialized medical care for people with life-threatening diseases, provided by an interdisciplinary team of healthcare professionals. 

Beyond this standard definition, you might know what this would entail for your loved one should they go ahead with this option. It’s hard to understand the full scope of this service if you’ve never experienced it with another family member before. 

To help you get a better understanding of what’s to come, keep scrolling. Here are five common myths that many people believe about this care. This list will dispel these misconceptions for you and your loved one. 

Myth #1: Palliative Care is Only Available to People with Cancer

When most people hear about palliative care, they might think about stage-four cancer patients who don’t have long to live. In reality, palliative care is available to anyone facing a serious and life-limiting illness. 

People may receive palliative care for any of the following chronic conditions:

  • Alzheimer’s and Dementia
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Chronic Liver Disease
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Chronic Pain
  • Congestive Heart Failure
  • Diabetes
  • HIV/AIDs
  • Kidney Failure
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s

While only a short list, these illnesses affect millions, proving palliative care is for more than just cancer patients. More to the point, people of all ages might need it, from toddlers to octogenarians. 

Myth #2: Palliative Care is Only Offered in Hospital

Another misconception about this healthcare service is that you can only receive it in the hospital. While palliative care in-hospital is available in most cities in Canada and the U.S., health care services provide palliative care at home.  

If given a choice, most people would rather die in their homes. There’s little wonder why if you’ve ever spent time in a hospital. Although doctors and nurses provide the best care possible, a hospital room — potentially one you share with multiple people — isn’t comfortable. It can be a loud, sterile, and distressing place where you might struggle to relax or hold meaningful conversations with loved ones. 

Compassionate at-home palliative care services allow you the dignity of dying on your own terms. Rather than spending the rest of your life in an unfamiliar bed, you’ll be able to receive care in the comfort of your home.

If your loved one receives palliative care in home, they can expect a team of healthcare professionals to visit them. There’s even the option for live-in caregivers to provide round-the-clock care in case they need it.

Myth #3: Palliative Care in Home is Expensive

This is a tricky myth to dispel because it depends on where you live. For someone who lives in the U.S. without medical insurance, it can be costly — just like any medical treatment available to you today. 

You may still be unsure about costs even if you live in Mississauga, Canada, where most of your healthcare needs are covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP). OHIP extends to some palliative care under specific circumstances, but it can take a long time to become eligible. 

In Mississauga, there are private care alternatives that fill the gaps left by the Ontario government. You can find Mississauga palliative care through at home care agencies in the city and around the GTA. 

Myth #4: Palliative Care and Hospice Care Are One and the Same

While palliative and hospice care overlap in many ways, they are two distinct treatments. 

Hospice care is specifically for people within the last six months of their lives. 

Palliative care, on the other hand, is for anyone diagnosed with a serious illness, at any time. It’s a supportive plan that may complement primary medical attention, meaning you may receive it while still seeing your GP and undergoing treatments. In addition to curative treatments, this care may involve Personal Support Workers (PSWs), Registered Massage Therapist (RMTs), Physiotherapists, and nurses to help alleviate stress and pain.

Why might so many healthcare professionals be involved in this treatment plan? Palliative care’s primary goal is to improve the quality of life for people with chronic diseases at any stage of their condition. 

A holistic approach enriches the emotional and spiritual lives of those who receive this care. For example, massage therapy has been proven to reduce pain, anxiety, and depression. 

PSWs can also provide companionship when you can’t be at your loved one’s side as often as you would like. These professionals can also help with housekeeping tasks, meal preparations, and general respite for family caregivers. 

As a caregiver, looking after your loved one can sometimes come at the cost of your own physical and mental health. But you can only help your loved one if you’re healthy. Take breaks and invest in self care practices, like sleeping well, eating a balanced diet, exercising, and speaking to your own doctor when you feel run down. 

Myth #5: Palliative Care Always Results in End-of-Life

It’s easy to connect one with the other. After all, this health care option serves people who have terminal illnesses like cancer. 

However, palliative care does not always result in end-of-life right away — or at all. As mentioned above, people receiving palliative care may also receive curative treatments. If they’re lucky, these treatments work, and they have no need for this care. 

Depending on the disease, your loved one may move in and out of palliative care as their needs change. One study even suggests early palliative care can prolong the life of people diagnosed with metastatic cancer. 

As Dr. Diane E. Meier, Director of the Center to Advance Palliative Care at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, told The New York Times, “It’s not about killing Granny; it’s about keeping Granny alive as long as possible with the best quality of life.”

Share The Truth with Friends and Family

Now that you can separate fact from fiction, it’s time to share this information with friends and family. Dispel the myths that palliative care is expensive or available only in hospital. The truth can help those around you make more informed decisions.