Palliation and End-of-Life Care
Improving End-of-Life Care for Cancer Patients
Suffering from mild or severe pain is a major complaint among people living with cancer. Most pain can be managed safely and effectively, yet only about one-fourth of all pain sufferers receive proper treatment.
The National Pain Policy Progress Report Card is a way for states to measure their progress in finding an effective balance between controlling narcotic pain management drugs and ensuring their medical availability for patients who need them. The coordinated work of the Vermont Pain Initiative helped raise Vermont’s pain policy “grade” from a C+ in 2003 to an a in 2012.
Palliative care refers to medical care that focuses on comfort and quality of life for a patient in pain, rather than a cure for an underlying illness. Palliative care addresses pain and symptoms resulting from illness and treatment; and is a team approach that attends to the physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual needs of a patient and his or her family.
Hospice programs provide end-of-life care when the goal of medical treatment shifts from cure to comfort. Hospice focuses on living out the remaining months of a patient’s life with respect and dignity in an environment that promotes quality of life.
Hospice and palliative care services may be provided in a patient’s home, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, hospitals or other facilities like Vermont Respite House; and coverage of services varies depending on insurance coverage.
An advance directive is a written document, signed by an individual and two witnesses, that outlines the individual’s wishes for medical treatment in the future when he or she no longer can (or wishes to) make decisions about what to do. Also called a living will or a durable power of attorney for healthcare, an advance directive ensures your end-of-life and other critical healthcare decisions will be honored.
A resource for Vermonters is the Madison-Deane Initiative, please visit: www.starttheconversationvt.org.
To learn more about our current Palliation and End-Of-Life goals and objectives see the 2016 Vermont State Cancer Plan.
Improving Quality of Life for Cancer Survivors
Medical advances in the way cancer is diagnosed and treated have improved survival rates of many cancers, and people are living longer after diagnosis. The most recent U.S. estimate shows that for all people diagnosed with cancer (through 2007), 64 percent survived cancer more than five years compared with a 51 percent five-year survival rate for people diagnosed with cancer through 1994.
Even after successful treatment of cancers, general and specific health issues continue for survivors. In 2004, as many as one in five Vermonters diagnosed with cancer more than one year ago reported that their general health status was only ‘fair’ or ‘poor’, as opposed to good, very good or excellent. Almost six percent of all cancer survivors in Vermont were not covered by health insurance in 2007.
Cancer survivors face numerous physical, psychological, social, spiritual and financial issues throughout treatment and for the remaining years of their lives; and could benefit tremendously from a coordinated statewide effort to support them. Emotional and psychological support are leading needs identified by cancer survivors in Vermont.
In 2010, there were over 30,000 Vermonters who had been diagnosed with cancer. The Vermont Cancer Survivor Network was created in 2006 by and for cancer survivors to improve the quality of life for Vermonters living with, through, and beyond cancer. Through a web-based forum, annual Survivor Celebration Days, and the “Kindred Connections” program, cancers survivors in Vermont can give and get critical emotional support from other cancer survivors.
For more information about the Vermont Cancer Survivor Network go to: VCSN.net.
To learn more about our current Quality of Life goals and objectives see the 2016 Vermont State Cancer Plan.