A Palliative Approach to Care
Published: 02 June 2020
Published: 02 June 2020
Palliative care allows patients with life-limiting illnesses to live as comfortably as possible in their final days.
This overview of palliative care will address some misconceptions and provide practical tips for healthcare staff.
Palliative care is the care approach taken for patients with life-limiting illnesses who have little to no prospect of cure, where the primary aim of treatment is comfort care and quality of life. This does not necessarily mean stopping medications, treatments and therapies; rather, it involves refocusing goals to minimise any suffering experienced by the patient (Le 2016).
Palliative care is based on individual needs and is different for each patient, aiming to alleviate physical, emotional, social and/or spiritual difficulties (Palliative Care Australia 2015).
In addition to reducing pain and distress, palliative care aims to enhance the patient’s quality of life so they can feel as fulfilled and comfortable as possible. It may positively influence the course of their illness, but the goal is not to quicken nor postpone death (DoH 2019; Palliative Care Australia 2015).
Some therapies and treatments may be delivered concurrently with palliative care (Le 2016).
It is important to note that palliative care is not exclusive to older adults and can be provided to a patient of any age with a life-limiting illness, including children and young people (DoH 2019).
(Palliative Care Australia 2015; WHO 2020)
A palliative care approach may be taken towards patients with life-limiting illnesses considered active, progressive and advanced, such as (but not limited to):
(Center to Advance Palliative Care 2015; DoH 2019; Palliative Care Australia 2015)
Palliative care may be provided:
This depends on the preferences of the patient and their loved ones (Palliative Care Australia 2015).
End-of-life care is a phase of palliative care, but palliative care comes before end-of-life care and the two terms are not interchangeable.
End-of-life care occurs in the final stage of a patient’s life when death is imminent. However, palliative care as a whole does not necessarily mean the patient is approaching death. A patient may start palliative care immediately after their diagnosis and receive this care for years (DoH 2019).
Palliative care involves a multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals including doctors, nurses, allied health professionals, carers and/or volunteers.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when caring for a patient receiving palliative care:
(Le 2016; Better Health Channel 2017; Palliative Care Australia 2017; Farabelli et al. 2020)
The National Palliative Care Standards aim to support the delivery of high-quality palliative care. They are:
|Standard 1||The assessment (initial and ongoing) takes into account the patient’s physical, psychological, cultural, social and spiritual experiences and needs.|
|Standard 2||The patient and their loved ones work together with carers to plan goals for care and make informed decisions.|
|Standard 3||The patient’s loved ones and carers are provided support and their needs are met so that they can fulfil their role.|
|Standard 4||The care delivered is aligned with the needs, values, goals and preferences of the patient, and is informed by evidence.|
|Standard 5||The delivery of care within and between services is well coordinated.|
|Standard 6||Loved ones and carers are provided access to information about loss and grief, as well as bereavement support services.|
|Standard 7||Specialist services support the delivery of person-centred care through their philosophy, values, culture, environment and structure.|
|Standard 8||Services are involved in ongoing quality improvement practices.|
|Standard 9||All healthcare staff and volunteers have the required qualifications, training and support to deliver palliative care.|
(Adapted from Palliative Care Australia 2018)
Palliative care involves a multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals who aim to alleviate the physical, emotional, social and/or spiritual difficulties of a patient with a life-limiting illness. It is important to individualise this care as well as provide loved ones with adequate support and information about palliative care and death.
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