A commentary by palliative care experts in The Lancet stresses the increased importance of palliative care for patients, their families, healthcare workers, and resource utilisation during the current pandemic. They recommend several strategies to ensure and extend end-of-life palliative care:
- Preserve continuity of care from the caregiver’s perspective by:
- Ensuring availability and rational use of personal protective equipment.
- Supporting caregivers to mitigate the impact of heightened exposure to death and dying.
- Preserve continuity of care from the patient’s and their families perspective by:
- Providing access to opioid medication to relieve breathlessness and pain by instituting the simplified procedures of the International Narcotics Control Board. Especially important for patients triaged not to receive intensive care or ventilatory support.
- Conducting training (online) for all caregivers to improve palliative care capacity.
- Training physicians on symptom control and end-of-life conversations.
- Strengthening telehealth capabilities to conduct home-based palliative activities.
- Allowing families to virtually visit and assist loved ones, especially at the end of life, to ease suffering related to dying alone.
Although all of these measures are especially relevant in the current situation, their incorporation into medical practice will help alleviate suffering in the future as well.