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AARP Backs Bill to Address Shortage of Palliative Care Providers

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En español | Palliative care — specialized care for people with serious illnesses — can provide needed relief from pain, symptoms and stress while also making life a little easier for family caregivers. But too often those who would benefit from this type of care don’t receive it, in part because there aren’t enough doctors and nurses trained in how to provide palliative support.

AARP is backing federal legislation that aims to change that. The bipartisan Provider Training in Palliative Care Act would let students pursuing careers in primary care through the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) defer their service for up to a year for palliative care training. The NHSC offers loans and scholarships in exchange for service in underserved communities.

Unlike hospice care, which strives to provide comfort to someone at the end of life, palliative care provides support at any stage of illness and can be administered along with treatments, such as chemotherapy for cancer patients. It can also improve quality of life for family caregivers by helping to manage their loved one’s pain and stress and by coordinating care among different doctors.

Research shows palliative care improves pain and symptoms and has even helped some patients live longer.

“No one should be forced to suffer serious pain when we have services available to relieve their suffering,” wrote Bill Sweeney, AARP senior vice president for government affairs, in a Nov. 14 letter to the bill’s sponsors, U.S. Sens. Jacky Rosen (D-Nevada) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

AARP’s endorsement of this legislation builds on our push for more support for the nation’s 48 million family caregivers, which includes calls for better training, respite care, paid leave and tax credits to make caregiving easier.

Read our letter and keep up with AARP’s caregiving coverage.

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