The Role of Palliative Care in a COVID-19 Pandemic
Palliative Care Strengths Such as Communication, Advance Care Planning, and Symptom Management, Needed Now More Than Ever
By Jennifer Moore Ballentine
In this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare systems and healthcare professionals are stressed and bracing for or already managing an influx of affected patients. The coronavirus presents a severe acute care crisis of unknown duration, in which potentially hundreds of thousands of people may get sick, some critically, and tens of thousands may die.
In this context, the usual concerns of palliative care—quality of life, discernment of patient goals, advance care planning, pain and symptom management, and support for caregivers over protracted trajectories—seem pale and to pale in comparison. And yet, I would argue, palliative care has never been more important.
Those who are elderly, frail, and/or with underlying chronic or serious illness are most at risk from the novel coronavirus. These are palliative care’s core patient population. Utilizing the unique skills and strengths found in palliative care must be part of the response.