Palliative care is a specialized care which deals with suffering of patients, i.e. is in charge of relieving suffering certain patients have to deal with. Palliative care is necessary for patients with advanced, progressive illnesses. It can be also engaged in case of patients suffering from curable illnesses but it is definitely of great significance for patients who are approaching the end of their lives. There are many different health care professionals who are included in the process such as physicians, pharmacists, nurses, and non-medical workers like chaplains, social workers, psychologists etc.
Palliative Care Concept
This type of specialized medical care is reserved for individuals suffering from serious medical conditions. Its goals are to deal with symptoms of the disease, pain that is common in such patients and stress and fears such patients inevitably face. Palliative care is also essential for improvement of quality of life of patients as well as their families.
Palliative care includes many methods, all of which are applied even though patients have small chances to survive and stay alive. It is either applied alone or with certain curative treatments.
In the majority of cases palliative care is associated with condition such as progressive pulmonary diseases, renal disease, heart failure, HIV/AIDS and progressive neurological conditions. It is also of major importance for cancer patients who have entered the terminal stage of their disease. Patients of all ages are included and are suitable candidates for palliative care, but only if they are suffering from specific illnesses.
It is essential to understand that palliative care actually does not cure patients. It deals with symptoms one is facing, trying to reduce their intensity, if not eliminate them completely. Furthermore, palliative care may be engaged for certain side effects of curative treatments (e.g. nausea associated with chemotherapy).
All in all, patients who receive palliative care are supported in physical, emotional, spiritual and social aspect.
Are Hospice and Palliative Care the Same?
In the US both hospice and palliative care have the same program and actually share almost equal goals, but there is a slight difference. Non-hospice palliative care is suitable for patients suffering from complex illnesses who may fully recover and continue living with the disease and in whom the disease will progress but not so rapidly. On the other hand, hospice care is a bit different because it is engaged in case of all people whose life expectancy does not exceed 6 months.
There are certain differences between hospice and palliative care in the United States especially when it comes to payment systems as well as location of these two services. Palliative care is provided in hospitals but it may also be organized in the patient's home. However, around 80% of hospice care takes place in the patient's home, while the rest of patients are administered in long-term care facilities. They may also be treated in free standing hospice residential facilities. In the United Kingdom there is no difference between hospice care and palliative care and both of these are considered equal in all terms.
More about Palliative Care
Palliative care can be provided only with the assistance of a specially organized team. It includes physicians, nurses, nursing assistants as well as social workers, hospice chaplains and pharmacist. Physiotherapists, occupational and complementary therapists are included too. Finally, there would not be palliative care without involvement of the patient's family. Under certain circumstances there are even volunteers.
These people are of major importance for patients who need to be familiar with all the aspects of their physical and psychological health. Distress is a part of the entire treatment, both curable and palliative. So apart from improving the quality of patients' lives, the mentioned professionals are due to support patients and bring them relief when it comes to facing inevitable outcome. The very treatment of symptoms such as constant nausea, pain and shortness of breath is rather exhausting, and may have huge impact on one's mental health. So, in order to be good palliative care providers, people must stay calm, focus on what their duties are and try to deal with every day stress related to their job as much as possible.
Palliative program was first organized in the United States in the late 1980s. Until now the number of programs for this purpose has increased so today there are more than 1400 palliative programs available throughout the country.
As for statistical data 55% of all hospitals with more than 300 beds are a part of palliative care program. Furthermore, around 20% of community hospitals support this program as well.
Initially, hospice care in the United States was a volunteer-led movement which has eventually grown and become a significant part of the health care system. In 2005 more than 1.2 million people together with their families were provided with services of hospice care, most of which were organized at patents' homes.