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Palliative Care/Pain Management

doctor looking at xrays Being in pain at the end of life can be more terrifying than death itself. Modern health care focuses attention on this concern through pain management and palliative care.

In California, all hospitals and nursing homes are required to assess a patient's pain condition as a fifth vital sign - along with the patient's pulse, temperature, respiration and blood pressure. California also is taking a leading role by requiring all medical schools in the state to train physicians on pain management and end-of-life care.

Palliative care is given to patients who face serious illness for which there is not a cure. Often called "hospice-type care," palliative care seeks to make the patient's life as comfortable as possible by controlling pain and symptoms, by easing the patient's concerns over daily living needs, and by helping the patient and family address psychological and spiritual needs. Respect for the patient's culture, beliefs and values are essential components of palliative care.

Ensuring Good Pain Management

  • Since different types of illnesses will require different approaches, ask your doctor how he/she will manage pain that can result from your illness. Your doctor should see that you have access to appropriate pain specialists.
  • Consider how much pain you may be able to endure in exchange for other quality-of-life factors such as alertness and physical ability.
  • Easing your pain is a priority so let your caregivers know when you are experiencing pain.
  • Be as specific and thorough as possible in describing your pain. Alert your doctor when you are unable to do specific things and when the pain is better or worse. Consider indicating your pain using a scale of 1 to 10.
  • Once you create a personal pain management plan, be sure to use it to avoid physical discomfort.

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Note: This listing is intended as a starting point and provided for informational purposes only. There are many other resources available that you may wish to research. Listing here is not an endorsement of the organization or its web page content. If you have questions, please consult with your physician, lawyer, accountant or other appropriate person.

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