If you don’t already know, palliative care is a form of care, treatment and support provided for people with a life-limiting illness i.e. a serious illness that cannot be cured. This could include:
- Motor neuron disease
- End-stage kidney disease
- Heart failure etc.
A bit too vague? Perhaps it’s worthy that we look at this from the perspective of its definition first.
That is, what exactly is palliative care? What’s included in it will naturally follow as we come to understand the nature and principles surrounding it.
What Is Palliative Care?
Briefly speaking, palliative care is compassionate comfort care that aims to provide relief from the symptoms (and physical and mental stress) of a serious or life-limiting illness.
Unlike curative treatments which focus on curing the illness, the main goal of palliative care is to improve the quality of a patient’s life – to help him/her live a full life during their illness until the end of days.
Do not mistake it as the doctor had given up though, by no means, it doesn’t mean one has to stop receiving treatments for their disease. And here, we talk about what is included in palliative care to help you understand better that this isn’t all about dying – it’s about living actually.
What Is Included in Palliative Care?
Palliative care includes managing symptoms, in particular, pain. This is perhaps the most common understanding involving palliative care given helping one to be more comfortable as one nears the end of life is one important component of such care.
Managing one’s physical symptoms like pain, greatly reduces the suffering one has to go through. This equates to helping one lives better i.e. improving one’s quality of life.
Given how palliative care is based on individual needs, the services included will differ for every person but nonetheless, the following are commonly found:
- Resources such as equipment needed to aid care at home
- Assistance for families to come together to talk about sensitive issues
- Planning for future medical treatment decisions and goals of care
- Links to other services i.e. home help (palliative care nurse) and financial support
- Support for people to meet cultural obligations
- Emotional, social and spiritual support
- Grief counselling
- Referral to respite care services
As you can see, palliative care is actually more than just the relief of pain and symptoms. It is actually a family-centred model of care, which means even family members and carers will receive practical and emotional support.
Do not undermine the importance of this. Such a holistic support system helps patients’ families to cope during this very difficult period – when their loved one suffers from their illness, and also in their own bereavement.
So yes, palliative care is not just a process where a patient undergoes the hospital by themselves. The overall care and the care their family receives are integrated and well included in the system as well. And it’s not just about alleviating pain and other distressing symptoms – the psychological and spiritual aspects of care are addressed as well, all in all, to help patients live as actively as possible until death.