29 April 2009

What is palliative care?

The palliative care approach provides specialised care, focusing on the reduction of pain and symptoms of life-threatening illness.

The idea of being sick and unable to care for yourself or becoming a burden to friends and family is a source of great concern to many people. Serious illnesses can cause physical symptoms, such as pain, nausea or fatigue. You may also have psychological symptoms like depression or anxiety.

According to Dr Teresa Swart, currently completing her masters degree in palliative medicine, the palliative care approach differs from normal medicine since it takes into consideration the psychosocial problems of the patient, as well as the family.
“The patient has a bigger say in palliative care. You will find that normal medicine is more paternalistic, where the doctor tells you what to do. In palliative care we find out what the patient’s needs and wishes are. For instance, if the patient would like to die at home, we will work on that,” says Swart.

  • provides relief from pain and other distressing symptoms
  • affirms life and regards dying as a normal process
  • intends neither to hasten or postpone death
  • integrates the psychological and spiritual aspects of patient care
  • offers a support system to help patients live as actively as possible until death
  • offers a support system to help the family cope during the patients illness and in their own bereavement
  • uses a team approach to address the needs of patients and their families, including bereavement counselling, if indicated
  • will enhance quality of life, and may also positively influence the course of illness is applicable early in the course of illness, in conjunction with other therapies that are intended to prolong life, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, and includes those investigations needed to better understand and manage distressing clinical complications.


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