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Palliative care may affect all of us at some stage in our lives whether as a patient, carer, family member, neighbour or friend. The goal of palliative care is to improve the quality of life of patients and families who face life-threatening illness by providing pain and symptom relief, and psychosocial support. When someone has an illness that cannot be cured and will lead to death, palliative care may be suggested. Palliative care is that part of healthcare provided to people who have a progressing illness that will lead to an eventual death. Cure is no longer the aim of treatment. Instead, maintaining the best quality of life possible becomes the priority. With the growing ageing population in Australia, the demand for palliative care is only going to continue. Some key findings in a recent report from The Institute of Health and Welfare Australia, outlined the following facts:
- there were more than 57,600 palliative care-related separations reported in public and private hospitals in 2011–12.
- almost $4.7 million in Medicare Benefits Schedule payments was paid for palliative medicine specialist services in 2012–13.
Most people facing a terminal illness or life threatening illness would like to choose to spend as much time as possible in their own home surrounded by those they love and in a familiar environment. Unfortunately, sometimes the patient has been admitted to hospital or a nursing home where palliative care is delivered. It certainly takes courage and commitment from not just the family members and friends to provide continuous care at home but our caring staff are are vital to offer support and ease the pain in palliative care for the patient. Love and kindness are not luxuries in your time of need but a necessary part of the care.
Palliative care likes to co-exist with medical specialists to offer the best quality a patient can experience, to make them comfortable, ensure their daily chores are attended to, their meals cooked for them and some quality of life is available around the clock. Sometimes it can be as simple as a walk around the garden, or being wheeled in a wheelchair around the garden – simply getting out and touching nature and escaping the bedroom blues. Many of our clients just enjoy having a book read or a conversation. Managing the symptoms and easing the pain is the core focus.
Talking about the subject of palliative care can be hard. You and your family may find this, and so will some health professionals. Talking about death and dying can be stressful because many people feel it is easier to avoid the subject. However, at some stage, it may have to be addressed. It is helpful to contact us to discuss palliative care early rather than later from the first diagnosis of a terminal illness. This will enable us to fully plan the best possible path to take for your loved one in a time of need. You may also wish to discuss this with your doctor and get a referral.
Often family members offer assistance in the early stages of a terminally ill person but after time you will become exhausted and drained from the demands. Not just from the physical demands but you can become emotionally drained also. It is not an easy task and may also deprive you from your own daily life. We would like to have a collaborative approach to ensure the family is still included in the care, that all persons involved receive the support they require and most of all, the patient receives best quality care in their time of need.