This question hits home for me. I recently sat down with the husband, and main caregiver, of a woman with advanced dementia. The woman eats very little and is losing weight despite her husband’s great efforts at encouraging her to eat. Under the care of another physician, she had been given megestrol acetate and there had been some improvement. Her visit to my office was an opportunity to continue an ongoing conversation with her husband about his wife’s overall decline, her advancing dementia, and the sorrow he was feeling over her failing health.
Experts don't yet understand the clinical significance -- if any -- of subtle changes in laboratory values relative to the norms seen in the HIV negative population, nor do they know how much of any given nutrient people with HIV/AIDS need for optimal immune function and overall health. Due to a lack of research on nutritional status in the setting of HIV disease, and because nutritional requirements vary dramatically from person to person, there are few definitive recommendations for nutritional supplementation in the HIV positive population.
High-quality palliative care also requires special expertise in honest, compassionate communication. In addition to enhancing the patient's and family's experience, these skills help to establish trust and overcome barriers to adequate care and relief of symptoms. Several communication tasks are especially important: conveying accurate prognostic information while maintaining hope, eliciting information about symptoms, decision making about curative and palliative treatments, handling emotions, and dealing with requests from patients and families who have unrealistic goals [34, 35, 36] . The challenges of communicating effectively are discussed later in this course.