Palliative care is not just care provided in the final stages of life, as it can also be of benefit to a person at their initial diagnosis, or be useful at intervals through the various stages of the illness. Many people have a long-term involvement with their palliative care team during the course of their illness.
Raising the subject of palliative care can be a difficult thing to do, as talking about death and dying can be very stressful for yourself and your family. Many people feel it is easier to avoid the subject for as long as possible.You and your family may find this, and so will some health care professionals. However, it is helpful if you are referred to palliative care early, by your GP/Specialist/Health Care provider. This is especially true if you have a number of related health issues.
People should discuss in advance with their doctor, family and carers, their wishes in relation to their changing needs for end of life care, before a medical crisis strikes. When everyone involved has a clear understanding of the person’s preferences for treatment in the final stages of life, it can lessen the fear and anxiety surrounding the process. It is also important to nominate an alternative decision maker, and consider whether the time is right for entering into a Health Directive and/or various Powers of Attorney. Please see our article – Using the Correct Documentation/Forms
Care can be provided in different settings including the home, hospices, aged care homes, hospitals and palliative care units. Palliative care can be administered by a number of different health professionals depending on the specific needs of the patient and the resources required by the family and carers.
They generally work in multidisciplinary teams, and may include:
- Specialist palliative care doctors and nurses
- Specialist doctors – oncologists, neurologists, cardiologists, respiratory physicians
- General practitioners
- Allied health professionals – pharmacists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, podiatrists
- Social workers
- Grief and bereavement counsellors
- Pastoral care workers
A small number of people experience severe or complex problems as their illness advances. These people may be referred to a specialist palliative care service where a team of specialist professionals will work to meet their needs.
You can have palliative care while you are also having active treatment for your illness.