Palliative Care aims to enhance the quality of life of a cancer patient in the advance stages of the disease. When applied earlier on in the treatment, it helps to bring about an optimistic mind set which helps to influence the outcome of the disease. Palliative care is a crucial part of cancer care even along with other forms of treatment as it helps to comfort a patient.
It is important to understand that palliative care is not a type of treatment but an adjunct to the mainstream treatments provided. It needs a multi-disciplinary team including doctors, nurses, dieticians, counsellors and social workers to be able to provide that level of care and comfort one needs during the stressful course of the disease.
Palliative care should be ideally given throughout the course of cancer treatment – right from diagnosis till either remission or end of life. Palliative care can be given in a hospital, hospice care, nursing facility and even at home. Hospice care and bereavement care are extensions of palliative care which are provided to patients and their loved ones respectively to help them cope with illness and death.
The aims of palliative care include:
- Physical health improvement – Palliative care aims to reduce any form of physical pain which helps to bring comfort to the patient.
- Psychological care – Palliative care helps to cope with the fear if the illness and its progression. It also helps to cope with mental and psychological troubles like stress, anxiety, depression which can negatively impact the outcome of the disease.
- Spiritual Care – Counsellors help patients to express their concerns, desires and finish tasks that are pending, and bring a spiritual and mental calm to their minds.
- Family care – Family members also go through a lot of pain and suffering through their loved one’s cancer journey; palliative care also involves the family members and provides them with support and care, along with preparing them for each stage of their loved one’s disease. Most patients prefer receiving palliative care at their homes along with their loved ones.
Palliative care also helps patients to plan ahead including giving a power of attorney to a person or family members to be able to take end of life decisions in case they are not able to do so independently.
Palliative care is often confused with being just cancer pain management. But, in reality, it is a lot more than that and is an integral part of cancer care and must be given to all patients suffering from all stages of cancer.