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We need to rethink palliative medicine

by Marianne Baksjøberg and Ram Gupta, www.theforeigner.no

Palliative care should be provided to patients with neurological disorders just as it is offered to cancer patients, according to neurologist.

We live longer, and at the end of our lives more of us will suffer from Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s or strokes. These and other neurological disorders will become much more common.

The prognosis is dramatic: In a few decades, nursing homes will have to give care to more than twice as many sick and helpless Norwegians than they do today.

Not just cancer

The health sector must therefore rethink its strategies on palliative care, i.e. treatments for relieving and preventing the suffering of patients.

Palliative care has traditionally focused on cancer, but now it’s time to include neurological patients, claims neurologist Morten Horn.

“Neurology is The New Frontier for palliative care,” he says.

Horn is a clinical consultant at Oslo University Hospital and a PhD candidate at the Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Oslo.

Recently he lectured on palliative care for non-cancer patients at a conference in Oslo. His message is clear:
Neurological disorders should be as much part of palliative medicine as cancer.

Neurology has undergone a therapeutic revolution. But there isn’t a cure for everything. That is why Horn is concerned about those who have been dealt the worst cards; those who have an illness that can’t be treated. It’s about providing relief and safeguarding a good death.

A formula that works

“The oncologists have done a good job within palliative care; they have found a formula that works. Now the formula must be shared,” says Horn.

Lars Jacob Stovner, professor in neurology at NTNU, confirms that neurological disorders will be a substantial health problem in coming years, and that they have already become common.

Professor Espen Dietrichs, neurologist at Oslo University Hospital, agrees with Horn that neurological diseases will require substantial resources in the future.

“Chronic neurological diseases amongst older people are becoming an increasingly serious social problem. Thus, the need for palliative forms of care will also grow,” says Dietrichs.

Read the rest of the article here.

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