Improving palliative and hospice care opportunities for people with cancer

Teoh Palliative Care

With a large segment of Americans reaching retirement age, managing chronic health problems and providing quality end-of-life-care is becoming increasingly important. However, misconceptions about palliative and hospice care are common in the general population, and can result in missed opportunities to relieve suffering. Individuals often fail to differentiate palliative care from hospice care and many incorrectly assume that palliative care is only available during the last six months of life.  

Deanna Teoh, M.D., M.S., and Chen Chen, M.D., part of the U’s obstetrics, gynecology, and women’s health faculty, are interested in helping Minnesotans with chronic illnesses and their caregivers better understand the differences between palliative and hospice services and, ultimately, take advantage of them earlier on. With Masonic support, they have taken a big step toward achieving this goal by connecting with Minnesota State Fair goers to gauge:

  • If increasing age is associated with knowledge of palliative care
  • If personal exposure to chronic illness, and especially cancer, is associated with improved knowledge of palliative care

After surveying nearly 1,500 adults at the 2019 State Fair, Teoh’s team found that respondents had much better knowledge of palliative care and hospice than anticipated. This was especially true among those who were over the age of 50, those with personal or caregiver experience in palliative or hospice care, and those who were caregivers for someone with cancer. 

While Teoh and Chen are encouraged by these results, the vast majority of their State Fair survey respondents were white and highly educated. They are now conducting additional analyses to identify populations that have low knowledge of palliative and hospice care so that they can develop targeted education.

“While survival is slowly increasing for people with cancer, we still need to do more to prevent and treat it, including providing survivorship and quality of life care. Masonic support allowed us to conduct a study that would not have otherwise been possible and, ultimately, could help relieve suffering by increasing knowledge of palliative and hospice care services.”

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