What is palliative care and why is it so important? The World Health Organization (WHO) states that Palliative care improves the quality of life of patients and that of their families who are facing challenges associated with life-threatening illness, whether physical, psychological, social or spiritual. This means that a patient who is fighting for their life, sometimes even for prolonged periods of time, can receives healthcare at home to improve their quality of life.
WHO estimates that each year, an estimated 40 million people are in need of palliative , but only 14% receive it. It is noted that among those that do receive palliative care, the patient as well as the family of the patient experience a better quality life. Palliative care can include a range of services from nursing care to physiotherapy, physicians and volunteers -essentially anyone who is dedicated to ensuring the comfort and care of patients fighting life threatening illnesses. The primary and most frequent person however, are nurses as they are able to identify and act on the patient’s needs with medical understanding. Some of the illness that may require palliative care include:
- Dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease
- Advanced lung, heart, kidney or liver disease
- Stroke and other neurological diseases, including motor neurone disease and multiple sclerosis
- Huntington’s disease
- Muscular dystrophy
And other degenerative or deteriorating conditions
These illness can be extremely difficult on the patient as well as their family. So why is it so important to have palliative care?
- Quality of life – In it’s definition, palliative care is designed to ensure that a patient is ensured the best quality of life in their situation. This may mean managing pain or other medical symptoms, making them comfortable or simply allowing them to experience joy in spite of their condition. While they still must face their illness, the support of palliative care in controlling pain and other symptoms can make each day a more positive experience that allows the patient to make the most of the time they have with their families.
- Improved mental health – It is no secret that receiving healthcare at home has great benefits over institutionalised care. However, being at home, surrounded by loved ones and familiar surroundings allows the patient to have an improved state of mind. This means that in spite of their suffering, they are able to experience joy and peace in the midst of their battle for life.
- Elongated lifespan – By opting to have nursing care round the clock, the nurse may be attentive to unusual medical symptoms and raise the alarm if needed as well as take quick and appropriate action. This may prevent a patient from early loss of life due to treatable conditions. The improved mental state of mind also contributes to longer lifespan as the mind plays a vital role in the body’s overall well being. A happy, determined patient is more likely to thrive than a patient who may have given up.
- A higher chance of recovery – Not all life threatening illnesses are terminal. Some may be treatable with time and the right course of action. With the exception of terminal patients, those with a chance of recovery have greater odds of fighting the illness when trained professionals are made available to them 24/7. While this is no guarantee and completely dependent on the patient’s medical case, there are cases that show that palliative care can lead to a full recovery.
- A positive experience – On the opposite end of the spectrum, some patients may in fact be terminal and may have a limited amount of time. In such cases, receiving nursing care or palliative care ensures that not only are the pain and symptoms controlled, but also that the patient has the most positive experience overall in their last few days. By staying by their side, ensuring appropriate care, offering companionship and allowing them to be with family, the patient is able to have a more positive and loving experience in their final days.
Palliative care is essential for patients with life threatening illnesses. In fact, it’s one of the best things they can receive if the care is delivered by a trained professional. That’s why we are so passionate about these services!