Aug 042011
 

What is palliative care?

Palliative care includes a wide range of needs which are specific to the individual. The physical and emotional effects of cancer vary from person to person and depend upon such factors as: age, cultural background, available support systems which mean that the palliative care given will differ.

Palliative care takes into account the following:

Physical needs: the most common physical symptoms include: pain, tiredness, loss of appetite, nausea, sickness, difficulty in breathing and insomnia. Many of these symptoms can be relieved by medication or by other methods: diet, physiotherapy, deep-breathing exercises. Chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and surgery can reduce tumours which are causing pain and other problems.

Emotional needs: palliative care specialists can provide resources to help patients and families confront the emotions which accompany cancer diagnosis or treatment. Depression, anxiety, and fear are only a few of the worries that can be relieved through palliative care. Specialists can evaluate, recommend support groups, family get-togethers, or make referrals to the mental health specialists.

Practical needs: Cancer patients can experience financial and legal problems, may have questions about insurance, or fear for their jobs. For many patients and family members technical and legal language and forms are difficult to understand. To lighten the burden the palliative care team can help to coordinate the appropriate services. For example: the team can direct patients and their families to the where they can obtain help with finances, to understand medical forms or legal matters, local or national resources such as help with transport, or housing.

Spiritual needs: With a cancer diagnosis patients and families usually seek the meaning of life more profoundly. Some people find the experience deepens their faith, others question it trying to understand why cancer has happened to them. A palliative care expert can help people explore their beliefs and values and find peace or acceptance of their situation.