What Does Palliative Care Mean and When Is It Time to Seek It?

What does palliative care mean? Read this article to learn about palliative care and how it can help those with serious illnesses and conditions and their family members.

Haisey Home Care
January 17, 2024
x min read

If your loved one is suffering from a serious illness, they need constant support. 

Most family caregivers need some help with taking care of their loved ones. Some of them choose to get the much-needed support through palliative care. 

But what does palliative care mean?

Palliative care is a specialised medical care approach. It provides relief from the symptoms and stress that come with a serious illness.

It goes beyond traditional treatments. It focuses on symptom management, emotional support, and open communication.

In this discussion, we'll explore the practical aspects of palliative care and how it benefits both patients and their families. 

Definition of Palliative Care

Palliative care is a specialised form of care. Its goal is to improve the quality of life for both the patient and their family. 

This is achieved through support, comfort, and symptom relief. 

Palliative care doesn't only address physical symptoms. It also deals with the emotional and social needs of the patient. 

Key aspects of palliative care include:

  • Symptom management
  • Emotional support
  • Communication and decision-making
  • Coordination of care
  • Advanced care planning

Palliative care should ease symptoms of illnesses and conditions. These symptoms could be pain, nausea, fatigue, and shortness of breath.

This can be done through various medical and non-medical interventions.

Those with a serious illness often have to deal with emotional distress. This is where palliative care can help. Patients get to talk to counsellors, social workers, and other professionals. Their job is to provide emotional support to the patients and their families.

This form of care encourages open and honest communication. The patient feels encouraged to talk about the illness, treatment options, and prognosis.

Palliative care teams work with the primary healthcare team. Together, they make sure the patient's medical, emotional, and social needs are met.

Patients have the support to make decisions about their medical care. This includes advance directives in situations when they are unable to communicate.

It's important to note that palliative care is not limited to end-of-life care. It can be provided alongside curative or life-prolonging treatments. It can also be initiated at any stage of a serious illness.

Also, palliative care is not the same as hospice care. This is a specific type of care provided to individuals in the final stages of a terminal illness.

Who Needs Palliative Care?

Palliative care is appropriate for individuals of any age. It's mainly for patients facing a serious, life-limiting illness. 

It's not limited to patients who are at the end of life. Rather, it can be provided at any stage of a serious illness, from the time of diagnosis onward. 

Here are some scenarios where palliative care might be beneficial:

  1. Serious or life-threatening illness
  2. Complex chronic illness
  3. Multiple chronic conditions
  4. Severe symptoms
  5. Supportive care
  6. End-stage illness

If your loved one has been diagnosed with a serious condition, they have the right to palliative care. These conditions can include cancer, heart failure, Alzheimer's disease, or other serious illnesses.

Palliative care isn't just for terminal illnesses. It can also be a good solution for those with complex chronic conditions.

Some patients have more than one chronic condition. They go through even more challenges. The support they need can be given to them through palliative care.

Palliative care is especially important when patients have severe symptoms. These could include pain, nausea, fatigue, shortness of breath, or emotional distress.

Others need extra support to manage their illnesses. They may have special physical, emotional and social needs. Palliative care helps ease the distress.

In some cases, a cure is not possible. The focus then shifts to improving the patient's quality of life. At this point, palliative care becomes a crucial component of care. 

In such situations, hospice care may also be considered. It is a specialised form of palliative care for individuals in the last stages of life.

It's important to note that palliative care is not only for the patient. It also extends to providing support for the patient's family and caregivers. 

The goal is to enhance the well-being of everyone involved in the care process.

Benefits of Palliative Care

Palliative care comes with a wide range of benefits. People with serious illnesses and their families have many reasons to use palliative care.

Benefits of palliative care include:

  • Improved quality of life
  • Effective symptom management
  • Better communication
  • Emotional support
  • Improved care coordination
  • Advanced care planning
  • Support for caregivers
  • Dignified end-of-life care

Palliative care focuses on improving the patient's quality of life. It aims to relieve physical symptoms, emotional distress, and spiritual concerns.

Palliative care specialists are trained to manage and ease different symptoms. For instance, pain, nausea, fatigue, and shortness of breath. 

The patient won't only feel better. They will be able to do more as well.

Patients feel better and can have open communication with their families. They also communicate better with healthcare providers.

Palliative care teams include professionals. For example, counsellors and social workers. These people are trained to provide emotional and psychosocial support.

This support also helps patients and their families cope with emotional challenges.

It involves a collaborative approach. The palliative care team works closely with the primary healthcare team. Their job is to make sure all aspects of care are well-coordinated.

Palliative care supports patients in making decisions about their future medical care.

It recognises the important role of caregivers and provides support for them as well. This can include education, counselling, and help in navigating the challenges of caregiving.

Palliative care is especially important for those in the terminal stages. It offers a dignified and compassionate approach to end-of-life care. 

This may involve hospice care. This is a specialised form of palliative care for those with a prognosis of six months or less to live.

Who Provides Palliative Care?

Palliative care is typically provided by a team of healthcare professionals. Each contributes their expertise to address the patient's various needs.

The core team often includes:

  1. Palliative care physicians
  2. Nurses
  3. Social workers
  4. Psychologists
  5. Spiritual counsellors
  6. Nutritionists
  7. Occupational therapists
  8. Hospice care teams
  9. Home care providers

In most cases, these professionals work together to help the patient in any way they can.

Palliative care physicians are trained especially for this form of care. They are doctors with specialised training in palliative medicine. 

They work closely with the primary care physicians and specialists involved in the patient's treatment.

Nurses play an important role in palliative care. They help manage the symptoms and coordinate the care. 

When patients are in the terminal stages of their illness, they might choose hospice care. Hospice teams consist of nurses, aides, and volunteers. 

They work together to provide comfort and support at home or in a hospice facility.

Palliative Care Through Home Care Packages

Your loved one can also receive palliative care through Home Care Packages

Home Care Packages are aged care programs funded by the government. But these programs are not only intended for elderly people. Those with illnesses and disabilities can also be eligible

There are four Home Care Package levels:

  1. Level one for basic care needs
  2. Level two for low-care needs
  3. Level three for intermediate care needs
  4. Level four for high-care needs

Palliative care usually falls under level 4 Home Care Packages

Home Care Packages are convenient because they bring the support to your home. You can receive the care you need right at home. This is especially important for those with serious illnesses that limit their mobility.

Home care providers help you with everyday activities so you can live independently. Whether it's personal care or meal preparation, you or your loved one will be taken care of by skilled professionals. 

There are many more benefits of in-home care for palliative care patients. 

Defining Palliative Care

Palliative care can make a world of difference for patients and their loved ones. Those with serious illnesses can rest assured they are in safe hands. Palliative care can improve your quality of life in many ways. 

Haisey Home Care offers palliative care to our clients. We aim to make you feel as comfortable as possible in your own home.

If you have any questions about our palliative care services, contact us. You can also book a free consultation, and we will come to you.