March 19, 2018

Palliative care is an area of medicine that is somewhat misunderstood by many but is increasingly important with an anticipated number of people needing it set to increase exponentially win the next 10 to 20 years.

It is, overall, about recognizing and looking after the needs of those with life limiting illnesses, from immediate medical treatment needed, to social, psychological and spiritual needs too.

It’s a holistic approach to care, taking on the needs of a patient as a whole person – not only focusing on the medical treatment required, but about working towards the best overall quality of life possible for patients and their families.

Care not just for the dying

Many believe that palliative care is solely about caring for the dying, but in fact, the earlier that a palliative care plan is put in place for a patient with a progressive life-limiting condition, the better their quality of life whilst living with their condition. In this respect, palliative care takes on a broader scope than many realize, not being restricted to patients that are near death, which is just a small albeit important part of what palliative care teams do. People with terminal cancer may benefit from palliative care as well as patients with a range of progressive illnesses, from pain conditions to mobility issues, respiratory and neurological conditions.

A holistic approach to care

Palliative care is a unique part of the healthcare service that employs a multi-disciplinary team of healthcare professionals. While palliative medical teams can help relieve patients’ physical symptoms, psychologists help address psychological or emotional distress and social workers or chaplains can help to address a patient’s spiritual pain. When faced with the end of your life, there are many emotional and spiritual questions and concerns, and psychological, faith or spiritual based support is often equally as important as medical care. Support workers hold the space for patients to work out their feelings at this difficult time and hopefully help find a sense of peace that can work to drastically improve their wellbeing. This emotional support is also offered to loved ones too.

Hospices for Hope work with this holistic approach firmly in mind, with our children’s hospice and respite centre, Copaceni, being an example of a place that offers children state of the art medical treatment as well as offering sick children a place to have fun and let kids be kids. Emergency accommodation, respite and support is also offered to the whole family.

The future of palliative care

Hospices for Hope work to bring this type of care, as a basic human right, to the people in communities where they are the least likely to receive it. If more people are to receive palliative care in the future, a focus on this type of care needs to be prioritised, including training more specialists in this field and utilizing new care techniques such as the smart and cost-saving use of technology. Hospices for Hope have seen the direct impacts of using technology in palliative care, trialling the use of virtual and augmented reality and mobile technologies to great effect and reception by patients in our hospices. Working alongside our research partners and with the backing of supporters and funders, we hope to help show the way for a new type of palliative care that can be enjoyed by all who need it across the world.

Find out more about our work.