WHAT IS PALLIATIVE CARE ?


"Doctor, will I be able to attend my daughter’s marriage?” This was the question asked to a palliative care physician while on her rounds of the ward. The patient was a 55-year old woman, in an advanced stage of cancer. Speech was difficult, she was experiencing pain and difficulty breathing. For most of us, it may seem like a strange question coming from a terminally ill patient. The doctor however, calmly gave her response, “If it is so important to you, we will make sure you are comfortable enough to attend your daughter’s marriage”. The lady’s medication plan was examined, pain management was focused on and medicines administered. In due course, her pain and symptoms were controlled and with some help from family, she was able to attend her daughter’s marriage. Her physical and psychological needs were addressed. This is the essence of palliative care.
Palliative care is a specialized branch of medicine that provides holistic care to patients suffering from life limiting illnesses such as cancer, HIV, COPD, heart diseases, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s among others. Patients can continue with their curative treatment and personal doctor while taking palliative care. Its aim is to provide a good quality of life.

Palliative care specialists help us better understand the illness, its impact on life, how to cope, adjust to the changing physical conditions, accept the reality and enable us to adapt to the present condition. Within this altered reality, they help us live life in the best possible way. Focus therefore is on the patient as a person rather than the illness.

In a hospital, a specialized Palliative care team of doctors, nurses, social workers, counsellors, other specialists and volunteers would typically work together with the primary doctor to provide additional support. This enables the patient to feel comfortable at a physical, psychological, social and spiritual level.

At home too, family members need help in organizing their lives, restructuring their roles and patterns of communication and coping with the new needs of patient care. They need respite too, as they often burnout because of the extended period of care.

Such diseases can change everybody’s lives. It is not uncommon for both patients and family members to experience anger, sadness, anxiety, depression and fear. Support from the Palliative care team helps them regain strength and peace of mind, tolerate medical treatment, as well as understand their choices of care better.

They are also there to lend a listening ear and a caring hand at the time when the family needs it the most. Most importantly, they are better prepared to cope with the inevitable end. Hospice care can be provided for those patients who are in the final stage of their illness.

Even after death, the family needs help in coping with their grief. They need to come to terms with a long association coming to an end. They need to handle the surge of emotions that come with it. They also need help to move on.
Palliative care helps them do that and more, and return to their regular lives with positivity.

At Simpatico, we have solutions which help patients and family both in hospital and home environments. We also provide training and other services related to Palliative Care & Support.