What Is Palliative Care?

What Is Palliative Care?

© Danielle Robertson Consulting Pty Ltd t/as DR Care Solutions

When someone speaks of a friend or relative being in palliative care, the news is not good.

The word “palliative” comes from the Latin root “palliat”, meaning “cloaked”. Indeed, palliative care involves cloaking a person’s pain to optimise their quality of life where an illness is terminal.

While there is never a good time to raise the subject, the upcoming National Palliative Care Week from 23 to 29 May 2021 plans to do just that and encourage Australians to discuss their end-of-life care wishes[1].

 

End of life vs palliative care

You may also have heard of “end of life” care. While often used interchangeably, there is a difference between “end of life” and “palliative” care.

End-of-life care typically refers to the 12 months prior to death.

Palliative care is typically the care specifically tailored to assist with the debilitating episodes of a terminal illness. Palliative care may be called on for episodes in the last 12 months of life or prior periods[2].

 

Who provides palliative care?

Palliative care is provided by a wide range of health professionals. Initially, it may be provided by the GP, medical specialists, or an aged care provider and, as the condition worsens, from palliative care specialists, Oncologists, Geriatricians, and Palliative Care Consultants.

Palliative care specialists are trained in providing care that meets the person’s wishes and optimises their quality of life. It encompasses physical, spiritual and psychosocial assessments.

The specialist team may include doctors, specialists, nurses, social workers, therapists (physio, occupational and speech), psychologists and trained volunteers[3].

A palliative care physician organises the team of carers. It is a medically trained team of care givers, as opposed to non-medical care givers who provide compassionate support like death doulas[4].

 

What do palliative carers do?

The care is tailored to the individual’s needs and supports the wider family. It may include:

  • Pain relief and treatment of symptoms, e.g. vomiting, shortness of breath;
  • Providing equipment to provide the care;
  • Assisting families to come together to talk about sensitive issues;
  • Introducing services such as home care, domestic home help, financial support, and respite care;
  • Counselling and support for emotional, social, spiritual and cultural concerns.

Where do you receive palliative care?

The care may be provided in a range of venues: at home; in hospital; in a hospice; in a palliative care facility or in a residential aged care facility.

 

Make your preferences known - plan in advance

While more and more Australians are dying in institutional settings like hospitals, hospices and residential aged care facilities, the majority wish to die at home.

However, a study[2] conducted from 2000 to 2010 found that only one in five Australians died outside of institutions. This is one of the lowest rates in the world. Even where they made their preference known, only half had their preference met.

DR Care Solutions is regularly called upon to help set up and monitor the provision of palliative in the home. If you or your loved one wishes to die at home, the advice is to plan well in advance so that this preference is respected. In a prior blog, we shared the story of Ray* and how we did our best to respect his wishes[5].

If you need support for a loved one, call on our experience in providing palliative care support in the home. Please reach out to me, Danielle Robertson at DR Care Solutions, for an initial discussion on how to set up the right care, support and assistance for your loved one, at the right time and in the right place.

- Contact Danielle - For An Impartial & Confidential Conversation

 

Resources

[1] About Dying To Talk
[2] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare: End-Of-Life Care
[3] Australian Government Department of Health: Finding A Palliative Care Service Provider
[4] What Is A Death Doula?
[5] Case Study: Dying With Dignity: Palliative Care At Home 

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