When a person is diagnosed with a serious illness like cancer, their hopes and values equate to more than just a cure.
Palliative care is specialized medical care focused on providing patients with relief from the symptoms and psychosocial stress of a serious illness at any stage and regardless of current treatment plans. The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family in a way that is meaningful to them.
The role of palliative care is to:
- help people achieve the best quality of life for as long as possible
- ensure their medical, practical, emotional and spiritual needs are catered for
- help them feel in control of their situation and make decisions about treatment and ongoing care
- make the time patients have as valuable as can be for them and their families.
By improving quality of life, palliative care helps patients and their families avoid emergency room visits and hospital admissions. Additional research has shown that patients who receive palliative care at the same time as their cancer treatments live longer than people who only get cancer care.
Palliative care involves a range of services offered by medical, nursing and allied health professionals, as well as volunteers and caregivers. This is called a multidisciplinary team (MDT) approach that seeks to make this difficult passage in life more manageable and meaningful. It may be provided in or out of home.
As we prepared ourselves for the worst – little did we know how much our lives were about to change or how important palliative care would be in helping us get through what lay ahead. I know my family would not have coped nearly as well physically and emotionally without the team. They gave the medical and nursing care my husband needed, taught us not to be afraid and helped us find strengths we never knew existed.
Palliative care is something not to be feared but embraced.