Palliative Care: Enhancing Quality of Life for Patients and Families
Palliative care is a medical specialty that focuses on improving the quality of life of people with serious illnesses and their families. It is not the same as hospice care, which is for people who are terminally ill and have a life expectancy of six months or less. Palliative care can be provided at any stage of a serious illness, along with treatments that aim to cure or control the disease. 🙌
What does palliative care do?
Palliative care helps patients and families cope with the physical, emotional, social and spiritual challenges of living with a serious illness. It can help with:
- Managing symptoms such as pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, nausea, anxiety and depression.
- Communicating with health care providers and making informed decisions about treatment options and goals.
- Coordinating care among different doctors, nurses and other professionals.
- Providing emotional and practical support to patients and caregivers.
- Addressing spiritual or existential questions and concerns.
- Planning for the future and preparing for the end of life.
Who provides palliative care?
Palliative care is provided by a team of professionals who work together to address the needs and preferences of each patient and family. The team may include:
- Palliative care doctors, who are specially trained in managing complex symptoms and coordinating care.
- Palliative care nurses, who provide direct care and education to patients and families.
- Social workers, who offer counseling, advocacy and assistance with practical issues such as finances, insurance, transportation and housing.
- Chaplains, who provide spiritual support and guidance according to the patient’s beliefs and values.
- Pharmacists, who help with medication management and education.
- Physiotherapists, who help with mobility, strength and function.
- Volunteers, who offer companionship, respite and other services.
Where is palliative care provided?
Palliative care can be provided in different settings depending on the patient’s condition, preferences and availability of services. Some of the common settings are:
- Hospitals, where palliative care teams can consult with patients and families during admission or in the intensive care unit.
- Clinics or offices, where palliative care specialists can see patients on an outpatient basis for follow-up or consultation.
- Home, where palliative care teams can visit patients and families to provide care in their own environment.
- Nursing homes or assisted living facilities, where palliative care teams can work with the staff to provide care to residents.
- Hospices, where palliative care teams can provide end-of-life care to patients who are no longer seeking curative treatments.
Who can benefit from palliative care?
Palliative care can benefit anyone who has a serious illness that affects their quality of life. Some of the common illnesses that palliative care can help with are:
- Heart disease
- Lung disease
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
- Neurological disease
Some interesting facts about palliative care
- Palliative care is explicitly recognized under the human right to health by the World Health Organization (WHO). 🌎
- Palliative care improves the quality of life of patients and their families who are facing challenges associated with life-threatening illness. The quality of life of caregivers also improves. 😊
- Palliative care reduces unnecessary hospital admissions and the use of health services by providing early and appropriate care. 💰
- Palliative care involves a range of services delivered by a range of professionals that all have equally important roles to play in support of the patient and their family. 👏
- Palliative care is required for a wide range of diseases. The majority of adults in need of palliative care have chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases (38.5%), cancer (34%), chronic respiratory diseases (10.3%), AIDS (5.7%) and diabetes (4.6%). 🩺
- Pain and difficulty in breathing are two of the most frequent and serious symptoms experienced by patients in need of palliative care. Palliative care can help relieve these and other symptoms through effective assessment and treatment. 🙏
- Worldwide, only about 14% of people who need palliative care currently receive it. There is an urgent need for adequate national policies, programmes, resources and training on palliative care among health professionals to improve access. 🚨
The main thing to remember about palliative care
Palliative care is not just for the dying. It is for anyone who has a serious illness that affects their quality of life. It can be provided at any stage of the illness, along with treatments that aim to cure or control the disease. It can help patients and families live as well as possible until the end of life. It is a human right and a medical specialty that deserves more attention and support. 💯