Palliative medical care is the type of treatment for patients who are suffering from incurable illnesses and are in the terminal stage of the disease. It provides reduction of certain symptoms and signs of illness making patients feel more comfortable. The goal of palliative treatment is not to halt, delay or reverse progression of the specific disease and it is only applied in case the disease has progressed far enough and entered the last stage when it simply cannot be reversed.
In America there are two different types of care called hospice and palliative care. They have similar philosophy but there is a difference associated with payment systems and location of the service. Palliative care is provided in acute care hospitals and may also include care in the dying person's home.
The Very Concept of Palliative Medical Care
The objective of palliative medical care is to improve the quality of life of both, patients and their families who have to face many problems associated with life-threatening diseases. This can be successfully achieved with prevention and relief of excruciating symptoms and signs of the disease by early identification and assessment as well as treatment of pain and all the accompanying problems. Physical and psychological relief is both taken into consideration when it comes to palliative medical care.
The very term 'palliative care' is most commonly associated with illnesses such as cancers, chronic and progressive pulmonary disorders, HIV, chronic renal disease, chronic heart failure and progressive neurological conditions.
Who Participates in Palliative Medical Care?
In majority o countries palliative medical care is obtained from an interdisciplinary team that includes physicians, nurses, nursing assistants, social workers, hospice chaplains, pharmacists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, complementary therapists and volunteers. The family members are also included in the very process and are vital for both, physical help and mental support. The entire team focuses on one particular goal, to optimize patient's comfort.
What Treatments are used in Palliative Medical Care?
Medications used in palliative medical care basically depend on the symptoms and sings of the disease. The therapy is symptomatic and its goal is not to treat the disease but to alleviate all the undesirable symptoms and problems a patient faces each and every day. These medications are either administered in a form of pills or if patients cannot swallow they are given intravenously, intramuscularly, transdermally or subcutaneously and sublingually. Even family members can be trained to administer medications. Apart from being given medications that can only partially alleviate sometimes unbearable symptoms patients must be provided with optimal psychological support. And finally, even though it is difficult to face the inevitable lethal outcome family members must be careful when it comes to discussing outcome of the disease with patients.