Palliation can be defined as “relieving or soothing the symptoms of a disease or disorder.”
Everyone facing life-threatening illness will need some degree of palliative care, in addition to treatment for their condition. Palliative care is an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problem associated with life-threatening illness.
Palliative care helps the patient and their family to cope with their condition and treatment of it, through the process of diagnosis and treatment. It helps the patient to maximise the benefits of treatment and to live as well as possible with the effects of the disease. It is given equal priority alongside diagnosis and treatment.
Palliative care is administered to people of any age, and at any stage of an illness, whether that illness is curable, chronic or life-threatening. In fact, palliative care may actually help you recover from your illness by relieving symptoms such as pain, anxiety or loss of appetite, as you undergo sometimes difficult medical treatments or procedures, such as surgery or chemotherapy.
The World Health Organisation principles of palliative care:
- Provides relief from pain and other distressing symptoms;
- Affirms life and regards dying as a normal part of the 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;
- 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.
Palliative care aims to:
- Affirm life;
- Coordinate care and help you navigate the often-complex health care system;
- Offer guidance with difficult and complex treatment choices.
The most important member of the palliative care team is YOU. Palliative care should be directed towards meeting your personal goals. It is your responsibility as a palliative care patient to make your goals and health care wishes known. Explain what quality of life means for you, it might be relief of pain and symptoms, spending time with loved ones, etc. Be sure to include any cultural and/or religious practices that are important to you, as that may influence your care.
Written by Rebecca Musi