When a person is suffering from an illness such as cancer, and it will no longer respond to treatment, they can receive a special kind of care called palliative care. The word “palliate” means to alleviate without curing.
WHAT DOES IT AIM TO DO?
The main aim of palliative care is to provide the patient and their family with the best quality of life. Coping with a terminal illness will obviously bring with it many different kinds of problems such as physical pain and spiritual or emotional problems. Palliative care not only provides medical services but also a support network for the patient and his family and friends. It can help to ease the physical pain and also refer the patient to specially trained palliative care workers such as chaplains and counselors who can help the patent to deal with other more personal spiritual or emotional problems they may be facing.
Palliative care also tries to help the patient’s family and friends during this difficult time. They too will have particular problems to cope with. They will need to be prepared for the eventual passing away of their loved one and they may also need help and support during the grieving process.
WHO PROVIDES PALLIATIVE CARE?
Because the patient can receive care from a range of medical and other services, the people providing the care need to coordinate and work together as a team together with the patient. The kind of people involved in palliative care services include doctors, nurses, chaplains, carers and volunteers. Family members can also play an important part in this team. All of these people consult with the patient to make important decisions such as the kind of care that the patient would like to receive, the best time to begin care, where it will take place and who will be involved. Palliative care aims to maintain the person’s independence by including them as much as possible in decision making related to their care.
WHAT KIND OF SERVICES ARE PROVIDED?
Many different services are available for the benefit of patients and their families such as medical care, nursing, spiritual guidance, loan of equipment, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, day care, counseling, diet advice, bereavement support and social workers.
CAN PALLIATIVE CARE BE IN YOUR OWN HOME?
The patient can choose where they would like to access palliative care. Depending on their circumstances a patient may prefer to be cared for in their own home. Hospitals and other types of medical institutions may be rather threatening to some people. Some people may prefer to stay at home because it may be easier to continue their usual way of life with fewer disruptions and they may of course feel happier and more comfortable at home in their normal surroundings.
They may feel worried about losing their independence if they go to a hospital or similar institution where they feel more dependent on others. For older people a hospital may be difficult to adjust to as everything is unfamiliar. However, people who are unable to continue living at home because they don’t have assistance from family or friends, or are too frail to look after themselves, may prefer to receive palliative care in a nursing home, hospital, hospice unit or other health care facility.
WHAT IS A HOSPICE?
This is a place where specially trained doctors, nurses, or other health workers care for people who are terminally ill. Sometimes a person can go into a hospice for just a short time to give their carers a rest or receive medical attention and have their symptoms eased, and return home again.
WHEN IS PALLIATIVE CARE GIVEN?
This is discussed with the patient. As the aim of palliative care is to help the patient remain in control of their life, important decisions such as these are made in cooperation with the patient who may prefer to have palliative care at the beginning of their illness or later in the course of the disease.
WHO CAN GET THIS KIND OF CARE?
Anyone can receive this kind of care. It doesn’t matter what race, culture or background a person comes from or what religious beliefs a person has. Palliative care aims at providing for the special needs of people from non-English-speaking backgrounds and indigenous people. If a person comes from a particular culture or belongs to a particular religion for which there are special needs palliative care can help.
HOW CAN I GET PALLIATIVE CARE?
A person’s doctor can give them a referral, or it can be arranged through a hospital or community based palliative care service such as the one below.
WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFORMATION?
See palliativecarensw.org.au/site/about-palliative-care/directory-of-services for the address and telephone number of the closest palliative care service to you.