Latinos/Hispanics are the largest minority group in the United States and comprise over 17% of the total population. Unfortunately, at the same time, the number of Latinos living with serious illnesses such as cancer, advanced heart failure, end-stage liver disease, end-stage kidney disease, and advanced neurologic disease like dementia, are increasing dramatically.
Despite this growth, Latinos continue to experience significant health disparities including limited access to culturally competent Palliative Care. Limited referrals to palliative care, assumptions that family will care for patients, cultural and language barriers, low levels of patient engagement and lack of patient knowledge about the benefits of palliative care are some of the barriers that limit access for Latinos to palliative care.
What is Palliative Care?
Palliative Care is a medical specialty, but it is also an approach to how patients live their lives, and more importantly how they decide to die. Palliative Care offers relief from suffering to patients with serious and complex illness. It addresses the "whole person" and the family (physically, emotionally, and spiritually) honoring their cultural perspective and beliefs.
Palliative care can be an “interpreter” between the medical system and the patient/family.
It is important for Latino community members to be aware of the benefits of Palliative Care.
Palliative Care is provided by a specially-trained team of doctors, nurses and other specialists who work together with patients and their doctors to provide an extra layer of support. It is appropriate at any age and at any stage in a serious illness, and it can be provided along with curative treatment.
- Where do I receive Palliative Care? Palliative Care is provided in a variety of settings including the hospitals.
- Does my insurance pay for Palliative Care? Most insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid, cover Palliative Care.
- How do I know if Palliative Care is right for me? Palliative Care may be right for you if you suffer from pain, stress or other symptoms due to a serious illness. These serious illnesses may include cancer, heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease, Alzheimer’s, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s and many more. Palliative Care can be provided at any stage of an illness along with disease treatments.
- What can I expect from Palliative Care? You can expect relief from symptoms such as pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, constipation, nausea, loss of appetite and difficulty sleeping. Palliative Care helps you carry on with your daily life. It improves your ability to go through medical treatments. It helps you better understand your condition and your choices for medical care. In short, you can expect the best possible quality of life, when provided Palliative Care.
- Who provides Palliative Care? Palliative Care is provided by a team including palliative care doctors, nurses and other specialists.
- How does Palliative Care work with my own doctor? The Palliative Care team works in partnership with your own doctor to provide an extra layer of support for you and your family. The team provides expert symptom management, extra time for communication about your goals and treatment options, and help navigating the health system.
- How do I get Palliative Care? Your doctor can recommend it or you can ask for it. Just tell your doctors and nurses that you would like to see the Palliative Care team. At Garnet Health, we have a complete specially-trained team that can help you or your love one.
Latinos are resilient and spiritual people. Many of them are far from their homeland and family members. They have worked hard often with multiple jobs to provide for their families in the United States and in Latin America. When confronted with a severe or terminal illness, Latinos deserve care that helps them with quality of life. Care that honors their culture and values. Care that honors the diversity of all patients.
Garnet Health provides Palliative Care at its hospital campuses in Middletown, Harris and Callicoon, NY. For more information, visit garnethealth.org/services/palliative-care.