Palliative and hospice care: all you need to know
Cancer, one of the world’s deadliest diseases, has a lasting impact on people and society. As per recent estimates, the number of cancer cases is expected to increase by 2040 to 30.2 million.1 India also will contribute to 2.09 million2 of these. The standards of medical care have improved tremendously in the last few years. While treating and managing cancer or other such terminal conditions in the early stages is still possible, those in the advanced stages require a different type of care – palliative and hospice care. Palliative care is specialized medical care intended to enhance a patient’s current care regimen by focusing on their quality of life and that of their family members – apart from medication. On the other hand, while keeping all the above factors in mind, hospice care does not attempt to cure the patient. It only focuses on the patient’s care, comfort, and quality of life.
Hospice is also a form of palliative care that comprehensively addresses the patients suffering. However, both kinds of care goals are to relieve suffering by managing pain and symptoms. Other health and social care professionals are involved in palliative care depending on a person’s requirements: doctors and nurses, a GP, community nurses, hospice staff, and counselors. The team also includes physiotherapists and occupational therapists. End-of-life care is a holistic approach because it deals with the symptoms and emotions of people with any terminal or severe illness.
An approach to end-of-life care that is comprehensive in nature will address the following and can improve the way a patient and their family perceive a health condition or their age.
- It can alleviate common symptoms such as pain, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, and insomnia using various therapies.
- End-of-life care helps address specific emotional concerns, including depression, anxiety, and fear associated with death or illness. The experts provide counseling and support and make referrals to mental health professionals.
- There are other things that patients and their families may need to worry about. For instance, financial and legal issues or insurance. They may also find it hard to make sense of the language and terminology in forms. This is another area where end-of-life care specialists can come in. They can assist in coordinating such services for the patient’s family.
- Ageing or illness means some struggle and a question of faith for others. Therefore, an aspect of end-of-life care is also to help people make sense of their thoughts and gain acceptance of what is ailing them.
Patients with a terminal condition like cancer needing medical support have an identity beyond that of a patient. Palliative care aims to provide the most important things to people in the sunset of their lives: human connections, spiritual well-being, and a sense of comfort among loved ones.
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