Meeting the Unmet Need for Palliative Care

Meeting the Unmet Need for Palliative Care

Posted on February 19, 2014 by ElderCare Resources Phoenix in Blog, Caregiver Education, Education, Geriatric Care Management, Hospice & Palliative Care, Hospitals, Long Term Care Information, Nursing Homes

By: Start Health Desk

Palliative care is the supportive care for people with incurable and serious advanced illness to provide comfort at the end of life. The demand for palliative care is increasing across the globe. But only 1 in 10 people who need palliative care is currently receiving it. Among the people who receive care, most of them are provided in high-income countries. Almost 80% of the global need for palliative care is in low- and middle-income countries.

It is estimated that every year more than 20 million patients need palliative care at the end of life. Some 6% of these are children. The number of people requiring this care rises to at least 40 million if all those that could benefit from palliative care at an earlier stage of their illness are included. Hospice and palliative care often encompasses some support to family members, which would more than double care needs.

About one third of those needing palliative care suffer from cancer. Others have progressive illnesses affecting their heart, lung, liver, kidney, brain or chronic, life-threatening diseases including HIV and drug-resistant tuberculosis.

Many believe that palliative care is about just pain relief. But it is more than that. It includes addressing the physical, psychosocial and emotional suffering of patients with serious advanced illnesses and supporting family members providing care to a loved one.

This unmet need of palliative care is mapped for the first time in the “Global atlas of palliative care at the end of life”, published jointly by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Worldwide Palliative Care Alliance (WPCA). In the Atlas, expert recommended that while we strengthen efforts to reduce the burden of the biggest killers in the world today, we must also alleviate the suffering of those with progressive illness who do not respond to curative treatment.

The Atlas calls on all countries to include palliative care as an essential component to every modern health-care system in their moves towards universal health coverage. However, currently only 20 countries worldwide have palliative care well integrated into their healthcare systems.

Experts identified the following barriers that need to be address immediately to meet the crucial need of palliative care:

  • Lack of policies recognizing palliative care and the need for care both at the end of life and during progressive illnesses;
  • Lack of resources to implement services, including access to essential medicines, especially pain relievers;
  • Lack of knowledge of healthcare professionals, community volunteers and members of the public about the benefits of palliative care.

At least 35 million of these people will die of chronic life limiting illnesses and if we include family and carers who need help and assistance in caring, at least 100 million people worldwide would benefit from hospice and palliative care. The need is clear. Now, we need to act to meet the need.

Source: World Health Organization

Published: Star Health Desk