NIH Offering Grants to Study ‘Palliative Care’ for the Elderly

By Barbara Hollingsworth | October 1, 2013 | 4:19pm EDT

(AP photo)

( – The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is soliciting applications for federal grants worth up to $275,000 to research ways to provide elderly patients with “palliative care” – even in hospital emergency rooms and intensive care units.

Palliative care is commonly understood to mean medical treatment that focuses on relieving symptoms, including pain, instead of trying to treat or cure the underlying disease.

But researchers will not be studying the use of palliative care to relieve the suffering of dying patients. “Hospice and end-of-life settings are not included within the scope” of the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA), the grant notices specifically state.

Instead, they will be looking at new ways to provide elderly patients with palliative care long before they are at death’s door.

The palliative care will be provided in “a variety of settings, including ambulatory care, hospitals (and specific sites within hospitals including specialty wards, intensive care units and emergency departments), assisted living facilities, and short- and long-term care facilities.”

The federal money will be used to “advance [the] science of geriatric palliative care… in settings and at time points earlier in geriatric patients’ diseases or disability trajectories,” according to the grant notices (PA-13-354355356).

One of the grants is categorized under NIH’s R21 Exploratory/Developmental grants, defined on the agency’s website as “novel studies that break new ground or extend previous discoveries toward new directions or applications.”

However, the FOA’s definition of palliative care as “care delivered at any stage of illness” is hardly a new concept.

“Palliative care is sometimes used synonymously with end-of-life care; however, palliative care is a broader concept involving care delivered at any stage of illness from diagnosis through the terminal stages of disease,” the FOA states.

“The growing recognition that disease-specific management has failed to address the total health needs of patients with serious illness underscores the necessity to advance the science of palliative care…Contrary to the popular notion that palliative care and curative treatment are mutually exclusive, palliative care can, in fact, be incorporated successfully into the treatment regimen for life-threatening disease,” according to the FOA.

Researchers will also be looking at the “cost-effectiveness” of introducing palliative care earlier for geriatric patients.

Noting that the “American population is currently experiencing unprecedented growth in numbers and in age,” the FOA encourages grant applicants “to include patient-centered outcomes and, when possible, cost-effectiveness analyses” in their research.

The closing date for applications is January 2017.

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