Myths v Fact about Palliative care

23 May 2023

We’re incredibly fortunate to have Dr Phillip Good serve as a Director on our Southern Cross Queensland Board. Dr Good is a Palliative Care Specialist clinician and researcher and a strong advocate for people to have access to high quality palliative care and support. This National Palliative Care Week, we asked Dr Good to dispel some myths around the ‘Matters of Life and Death’.

Myth: Palliative Care is only available in a person’s last few days.

Fact: Palliative care is available to people at any stage of an advanced illness, from diagnosis to the end of life. If you have a life-limiting illness, the sooner Palliative Care is introduced in the disease process the more it can help you maintain the best quality of life, according to your wishes. Evidence shows that the earlier palliative care is involved the better the outcomes.

Myth: Palliative Care shortens, or prolongs, a person’s life.

Fact: Palliative care does not aim to shorten nor prolong a person’s life. Palliative care clinicians work very hard with people so that they live life as comfortably as possible. Ensuring that comfort and support measures align with a person’s healthcare goals and preferences alongside medical treatments are a key focus.

Myth: People in palliative care can get addicted to pain relief medications.  

Fact: Uncontrolled pain can have negative effects on a person’s physical and emotional health. Palliative care can provide relief for pain. Palliative care patients don’t get addicted, nor do they crave strong pain killers. It’s important to know, not everyone with a life-limiting illness, such as cancer, will experience pain. If they do, it is generally controlled well and there are a range of medications which can be given. Current studies show that in palliative care, pain medication does not hasten a person’s death

Myth: Palliative care can only be delivered in a hospital setting.

Fact: Palliative care can be delivered in a variety of settings, including hospitals, aged care facilities, and in the patient’s home. The goal of palliative care is to provide support and improve quality of life for individuals, regardless of where they are receiving care. Sometimes people are admitted to a palliative care facility, and even then it is important to remember that often, after symptoms are controlled, patients are able to be discharged back to where they are living.

Myth: You should avoid talking about life-limiting illnesses because it makes people sad?

Fact: It can be hard to discuss matters of life and death with people you love, because you want to protect each other. Remember, such conversations are important and can BE treated with sensitivity and respect. It is better to be open and honest about a person’s illness, in many cases it can be a relief for them, and you, to talk about it.

If you or a loved one is living with a life-limiting illness, you and your family can talk to your doctor, our residential managers or member of our team about your unique circumstances. Together, we can support you throughout the journey.

You can also read our article Palliative Care: Freedom of choice, comfort, dignity and respect which discusses what Palliative Care is.