What exactly is palliative care?

Read the first article in Palliative Care, an educational series from HammondCare, which discusses what exactly palliative care is.

Palliative Care, an educational series from HammondCare

The approach to end of life, for whatever reason, can be a daunting time for everyone involved. However, many people - patients, their carers and family alike - are often surprised about the valuable and positive role that palliative care can play in improving quality of life and making this time more manageable.

Palliative care assists to improve people’s quality of life during the course of a progressive life-limiting illness. This care isn’t just about pain relief medicine. It is more holistic. It also addresses the psychological and spiritual aspects of care, providing support to help patients live as actively as possible.

Being well informed about palliative care can make this journey more manageable and help reduce the associated fears and concerns. That is why HammondCare is launching a series of articles to guide people on how palliative care can improve the quality of life for patients, their carers, and families.

A new topic will be posted each month and we hope you find them useful in your own journey.

what is palliative care

What exactly is Palliative Care?

Palliative care is a type of medical practice that has grown up over the last 40 or so years. It’s concerned with the care of seriously ill people, where cure is not possible.

It is an approach that focusses on improving the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problems associated with life-threatening illness. It’s about providing relief from pain and other distressing symptoms.

It is important to know that palliative care affirms life and that dying is considered a normal part of all our lives. It is also important to emphasise that palliative care aims to neither hasten nor postpone death.

The aim is to manage each situation by being careful about identifying and assessing symptoms, whether they are mainly physical, or psychosocial or spiritual. The aim is to find out what matters most and to try to focus on that.

It isn’t just about managing physical things like pain or breathlessness, it integrates the psychological and spiritual aspects of who we are. It attends to what gives each of our lives meaning and purpose and offers supports to help patients live as actively as possible until their death. It also provides a broad range of professionals who can help the family and important others cope during the patient’s illness and in their own bereavement.

This can’t be done by a doctor or nurse working on their own, it needs a team approach, so a number of different people may be involved at different times. This may be doctors and nurses but also physiotherapists, occupational therapists, chaplains, pastoral care workers and very often volunteers undertaking a wide range of jobs for the family. If needed, most teams will also be able to offer bereavement counselling, if that is needed or wanted.

Many people think palliative care is just for the end of life and the end of hope. This is not the case. We know now that palliative care can actually make a big impact on how long people can live, and live well.

It isn’t just for the end of life either. If someone has a disease or illness that has no cure then it is appropriate to think about involving palliative care teams at an early stage, even while other treatments like chemotherapy or radiation therapy are going on.

In summary, palliative care isn’t about death – it is about living life right up until the end and making the most of each day that we can.

If you have benefited from this information and would like to share it with others, then please do – we want more people to feel comfortable facing the issue of palliative care.

For further information on HammondCare’s Palliative Care services, please contact us on 1800 826 166.