By Dr. Sanjay Gupta, lead physician at the Binaytara Foundation Cancer Center
Palliative care is a specialty which focuses on caring for people with a life limiting illness and their families.
It not only aims to relieve physical symptoms such as pain, but it also ensures a person’s cultural, emotional, psychological, social and spiritual needs are met. The aim of palliative care is to improve the person’s quality of life and that of their family.
Who needs palliative care?
- Historically palliative care was provided to patients with a diagnosis of cancer. It is now well recognized that everyone who is diagnosed with a life limiting illness, including cancer, chronic disease and end stage organ failure may benefit from palliative care.
Time for palliative care
- Palliative care is not provided only during last stage of disease. It is started as soon as someone is diagnosed with life limiting illness. It can be given at any setting such as home, community, hospital. It differs from hospice, as hospice service is give only during last few days of life.
Who can provide palliative care?
- Palliative care is usually provided by palliative care specialists, health care practitioners who have received special training and/or certification in palliative care. They provide holistic care to the patient and family or caregiver focusing on the physical, emotional, social, and spiritual issues cancer patients may face during the cancer experience.
- Often, palliative care specialists work as part of a multidisciplinary team that may include doctors, nurses, registered dieticians, pharmacists, chaplains, psychologists, and social workers. The palliative care team works in conjunction with your oncology care team to manage your care and maintain the best possible quality of life for you.
- Palliative care specialists also provide caregiver support, facilitate communication among members of the health care team, and help with discussions focusing on goals of care for the patient.
Issues addressed by palliative care team
- Physical: Common physical symptoms include pain, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, and insomnia.
- Emotional and coping: Palliative care specialists can provide resources to help patients and families deal with the emotions that come with a cancer diagnosis and cancer treatment. Depression, anxiety, and fear are only a few of the concerns that can be addressed through palliative care.
- Caregiver needs: Family members are an important part of cancer care. Like the patients, they also have changing needs. They have to look after patient along with their daily duties and works. Uncertainty about how to help their loved one with medical situations, inadequate social support, and emotions such as worry and fear can also add to caregiver stress.
- Practical needs. Palliative care specialists can also assist with financial and legal worries, insurance questions, and employment concerns.
Benefits of palliative care
- Increased quality of life
- Relief from different symptoms
- Decreased emergency visits
- Decreased financial burden
- Help to family members who look after patients by providing necessary help they need.
- Decreased stress to patients and family members