It is important to understand what Palliative Care is, how it is provided and how to arrange it, before you need it. Contrary to popular belief, Palliative Care is not just for the dying, but anyone with a life limiting illness. Palliative care is defined by the World Health Organization as:
An approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problems associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial and spiritual. Palliative care:
- provides relief from pain and other distressing symptoms;
- affirms life and regards dying as a normal process;
- intends neither to hasten or postpone death;
- integrates the psychological and spiritual aspects of patient care;
- offers a support system to help patients live as actively as possible until death;
- offers a support system to help the family cope during the patients illness and in their own bereavement;
- uses a team approach to address the needs of patients and their families,
- including bereavement counselling, if indicated;
- will enhance quality of life, and may also positively influence the course of illness;
- is applicable early in the course of illness, in conjunction with other therapies that are intended to prolong life, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy,
- and includes those investigations needed to better understand and manage distressing clinical complications.
You do not need to wait for your specialist or GP to refer you to a Palliative Care provider, you can instigate the conversation. Palliative Care can be provided at home, at a hospice, in hospital or in an aged care facility. Apart from medical care, a Palliative Care provider can provide emotional and spiritual support, and bereavement support.
The Palliative Care Helpline is a free call on 1800 772 273 or visit http://www.palliativecarehelpline.org.au . A comprehensive free downloadable booklet about Palliative Care at Home is available.
In Australia the provision of Palliative Care is determined by territories assigned by the government, dependent upon where you live. You can search online at http://pallcare.gky.com.au/c/pc?a=apps&ap=bd for your Palliative Care provider options, or talk with your Doctor. Alternatively, visit Palliative Care Australia at http://www.palliativecare.org.au/.
My wish for you is that if you or your loved ones ever face a terminal or life limiting illness, that you find the strength to contact a palliative care provider at the time of diagnosis. Let someone else guide you through this journey with compassion and love.