Since November is National Hospice/Palliative Care Month, we are going to address this question: What does palliative care mean for the patient?
The Initial Challenge of Palliative Care
For many people, the concept of palliative care is something that is difficult to discuss.
We are uncomfortable with the idea that humans are fragile, and that life has an end. That is why many of us are unwilling to accept that we may lose a loved one. A patient who is aware of their own condition, may understand that they might have little time left. Consequently, the discomfort with these concepts, means, that discussing palliative care is a challenge for most people.
Hospice or Palliative care
Let us try to answer these questions.
Firstly, who attempts to provide hospice or palliative care? Secondly, which ideals do they uphold? Thirdly and most importantly, what does palliative care give to a patient?
The National Hospice / Palliative Care Awareness
Palliative care is not the same as hospice care. In palliative care, a patient can be someone who is reasonably expected to survive and even recover. Therefore a patient may live in palliative care for an extended time with a chronic illness. Although there are similarities to palliative care, hospice care does not include aspects of healing.
The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) president, Edo Banach listed some of the aims of palliative care:
- to relieve pain for very ill patients
- continue curing the patient where appropriate
- manage symptoms where the cure is beyond medicine
- reduce stress for the patient and the family
- to support patients and their family caregivers, in all aspects
- make support and bereavement services available to a bereaved family
The Ideals of Palliative Care
Palliative care is provided for the benefit of the patient. Therefore, it strives to provide the patient with:
- Improved quality of life within the limits of the patient’s condition.
- Integrated care across different areas of medical expertise.
- Considering the whole person, not just the medical aspects.
- Include other considerations that are important to the patient and the family.
Palliative Care and Personal Beliefs
Decisions in palliative care may be affected by a person’s faith. It is another aspect of the individual’s responsibility to the patient.
A person may consider linking their choices regarding palliative or hospice care to their personal and religious beliefs.
Palliative Care and the Patient
Banach stresses the importance of a patient receiving “the best care, at the most appropriate time”.
Patients or their caregiving family, may want to move to a medical setting, after the patient has been cared for at home. If they are aware of the care offered in an institution, they could make the decision before the ‘last minute’. It might save the patient and the family emotional torment. Why is this?
Some people feel that spending time together with their loved one, is an important aspect looking after a very ill patient. For many, that can only take place if they do not have the additional burden of providing healthcare.
Palliative care can be carried out as a patient prefers it, at home, in a communal setting, or in an equipped medical setting. How about discovering which aspects of palliative care were most important to patients and their caregivers? Read about it in a 2017 study.
Become Aware, Be Prepared
How should someone make a decision about palliative care? Making a decision can only come from awareness and being informed as to the options. People can discover, that entering palliative care does not mean giving up hope. Certainly, making decisions with ‘open eyes’, awareness and understanding of the factors involved, is better than not deciding. Therefore, one of the prime aims of making a National awareness month for hospice/palliative care, is to inform people of the options.
So, what does palliative care mean for the patient? Many things. Relief, being cared for and putting on board the things that are important to the patient.