The rapid growth of the American elderly population necessitates that special attention is paid to the needs of these individuals. It is estimated that by the year 2030, 20% of our population will be over the age of 65 (AoA, 2013). Many of these individuals suffer from multiple chronic illnesses and thus utilize healthcare resources frequently. According to the Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care (2015), 90 million Americans suffer from at least one chronic illness. Although this imposes a tremendous financial burden on our system across the board, the brunt of the cost to treat these illnesses comes in the last two years of life (Dartmouth Atlas, 2015).
Despite the outpouring of dollars on these conditions many patients and their families have reported that their care was fragmented, confusing and expensive. Palliative care provides a solution to many of these frustrations. Palliative care offers a team-based approach to treating serious illness. Although closely aligned with hospice services, palliative care is not ‘prognosis-based’. The service is appropriate at any age or stage of disease. It is principally designed to treat symptoms, alleviate pain and the stress of chronic illness.
Fortunately, palliative care is a hot trend in the public arena (Center to Advance Palliative Care, 2014). Specifically, these services are becoming more widely available in large hospitals.
The concern is that these services might not be readily available or widely recognized in smaller community hospitals or outpatient settings. Recommendations have been made that public policy should emphasize increasing the capacity to provide palliative care services, reinforcing the scientific basis for this care and increasing the number of palliative care providers (Center to Advance Palliative Care, 2014).
My personal experience has been encountering a knowledge deficit with respect to palliative care services as well as a deficiency in available resources. This blog will examine current policy and advocacy initiatives directed at improving access to palliative care services on both a federal level and in the state of California.
Administration on Aging (AoA). (2013). Aging statistics. Retrieved from http://www.aoa.gov/Aging_Statistics/
Center to Advance Palliative Care. (2014). Overview for policy makers. Retrieved from https://www.capc.org/policymakers/overview/
Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care. (2015). Care of chronic illness in the last two years of life. Retrieved from http://www.dartmouthatlas.org/data/topic/topic.aspx?cat=1