Integrating palliative care in severe chronic obstructive lung disease

Kimberly A Hardin, Frederick Meyers, Samuel Louie
COPD 2008, 5 (4): 207-20
Palliative care services for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have been limited in most health care schemes despite the significant impact its symptoms can have on quality of life (QOL). Palliative care must be integrated to address physical and emotional distress and QOL deterioration more effectively. Multi-factorial barriers in current health care systems impede the provision of palliative care, including the lack of familiarity among health care professionals. There are sparse evidence-based studies and guidelines for clinicians to better recognize the need for palliative care in COPD patients compared to the large experience and resources available to cancer patients and hospice care. The multidisciplinary approach of palliative care should help COPD patients navigate through the continuum of chronic disease management. Highest QOL, not necessarily the highest physiologic goals, with relief of physical and emotional suffering, are most important to patients. Hospice care, the last phase of palliative care, can be offered to COPD patients when their goal of care has changed from life-prolonging therapies to comfort treatment. We suggest a scheme for identifying COPD patients for palliative care and for delivering simultaneous disease-directed care to help patients live life to the fullest. Pulmonary rehabilitation offers the best venue for incorporating palliative care. We review the need for, barriers to, and key activities for integrating palliative care into the current health care management of patients living with COPD.

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