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How a Stanford physician became a leading advocate for palliative care

Stanford physician VJ Periyakoil, MD, is a strong advocate for palliative care being "woven seamlessly into treatment" to reduce families' stress levels and improve patients' quality of life in their final days. As described in a profile piece published yesterday in New America Media, Perivakoil's commitment and passion for changing the standard of care for patients with serious, chronic illness developed while studying geriatric medicine here. Paul Kleyman writes:

[At Stanford], she discovered another gap in her knowledge from patients who were deemed to have only six months or less left to live. Admitted to hospice care, their cure-oriented medical treatment would often be stopped in favor of "comfort" care.

"I had a hard time giving up on these patients," she admits.

Her determination to improve the quality of their lives, no matter how much time they had left, led her to realize that palliative treatment should begin as soon as a patient is diagnosed with a life-threatening disease. Care provided only when someone becomes eligible for terminal hospice coverage comes too late to fully help them.

So, for example, the average hospice stay in the United States is now only 19 days. But palliative medicine begun much earlier reduces the agony and stress of disease so well that many patients actually survive longer. And family caregivers, relieved of constant stress, have been shown to live longer following a loved one's death.

Periyakoil has since become a leading expert and medical educator in end-of-life care. In her role as director of palliative care education and training at Stanford, she continues to promote successful aging and end-of -life care for multi-cultural older adults through the recently launched Internet based Successful Aging (iSAGE) program.

Previously: Stanford introduces web-based mini-fellowship program on successful aging, The importance of patient/doctor end-of-life discussions and A Stanford nurse shares her experience in talking to her aging mother about end-of-life decisionsTalking about a loved one’s end-of-life wishes
Photo by Ani-Bee

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