Palliative care and its benefits

Serious illnesses such as cancer can take a toll on you. Undergoing treatments and coping with symptoms can be physically draining and mentally exhausting. In such a scenario, if help is available to relieve your pain and discomfort, it can make a world of difference to your peace of mind and well-being. A palliative care program is one method of improving the quality of life for patients undergoing serious or life-threatening illnesses.

What is Palliative care?

Palliative care is the care available to patients and their families to cope with the serious illness and/or its symptoms on a psychological, social, emotional, and spiritual level. It has to be taken parallelly with the main treatment.

Patients of any age group can avail themselves of palliative care at any stage of their illness. Palliative care is available for life-threatening illnesses like cancer as well as other diseases such as blood and bone marrow disorders requiring stem cell transplant, heart disease, cystic fibrosis, acute trauma, severe burns, dementia, end-stage liver disease, kidney failure, lung disease, major organ failure, tuberculosis, Parkinson’s disease, and stroke. It can help relieve symptoms such as pain, nausea, anxiety, nervousness, constipation, breathing difficulties, depression, sadness, anorexia, fatigue, and insomnia.

Availing palliative care does not indicate that the patient is on his deathbed, it only means that he is getting additional care for faster healing. It has been recognized as a human right to health.

How does it work?

The effects of illness are different from person to person and palliative care can help address the needs and concerns of each individual. It is based on the needs of the patient and not necessarily on the patient’s prognosis.

Palliative care involves a team of medical professionals who work in tandem to meet your specific needs regarding the treatment or disease. Apart from physical complaints, they also address emotional, mental, and spiritual concerns. They also help draft a practical approach to the treatment in line with your treatment and address the queries and concerns regarding the disease and the treatment. Concerns are addressed not only of the patients but their family members as well.

The interdisciplinary team of palliative care usually consists of:

  • a physician who takes care of pain and symptom management
  • a pharmacist who monitors the effectiveness of the prescribed medicines
  • a trained nurse who takes care of the patient
  • a social worker or case manager who provides counseling and emotional support to the patient and the family
  • a chaplain to provide spiritual support to the patient
  • a dietician to take care of the nutritional needs of the patient

This apart, a respiratory specialist or a psychiatrist may also be a part of the team in case there is a requirement.

How do people avail of it?

Palliative care can be availed through a referral from your physician or health provider. This care can be accessed in a hospital, outpatient clinic, a long-term care facility, or even at home.

How has it benefited previous patients?

Previous patients who have taken up palliative care have shown drastic improvements in symptoms of illness such as pain, nausea, and shortness of breath. They have also shown a remarkable reduction in stress and an increase in their confidence. Also, patients and their families have been more positive and informed about the efficacy of the treatments. This type of additional and collective care not only takes care of present needs but also anticipates future requirements and works accordingly.

So, if you or your loved one is undergoing treatment for a life-threatening and/or serious illness and needs help to alleviate your suffering whether it is in the form of pain or physical symptoms or any emotional need related to the treatment or illness, seek palliative care. It will help you understand the illness as well as address all your concerns about the particular treatment.



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