What is palliative care

Know about Palliative Care: What is Palliative treatment?

Palliative care frequently asked questions:

Despite a global initiative to raise awareness about palliative care, this specialist care remains at infancy phase in many nations especially those in the Low to Medium Income Countries (LMIC), which our beloved Kingdom of Lesotho is part of. Therefore, you probably have a couple of questions about palliative care. Some of the information you might be interested in may range from: what is palliative care? When is it appropriate to seek palliative care? Be assured that our scope of care is not limited to just supporting the patients and their loved ones but also to answer any questions, address the fears and concerns they might have.

What is palliative care treatment?

Palliative care is an interdisciplinary medical caregiving approach aimed at patients with life limiting and life-threatening illnesses such as cancer. Primary focus is to improve and promote quality of life for this group of patients as well as alleviating their suffering. Treatment plan involves management of pain, other related symptoms including side effects of chronic illnesses. It is very crucial to understand what palliative care is not –It is not hospice care. Palliative care services are very different from those given during hospice care; palliative care is given from the point of being diagnosed with illness such as cancer, throughout cancer treatment to survivorship.

The World Health Organisation(WHO) defines palliative care as an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing problems associated with a life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psycho-social and spiritual.

What is the goal of palliative care?

The goal of palliative care is to improve quality of life via a multidisciplinary approach. In palliative, we continuously seek to address patient’s Total Pain; paying attention to the entirety of physical, psychological, social and spiritual needs.

According to WHO the objectives of Palliative care are

  • Provides relief from pain and other distressing symptoms.
  • Affirms life and regards dying as a normal process.
  • Intends neither to hasten nor postpone death.
  • Integrates the psychological and spiritual aspects of patient care.
  • Offers support systems that help families cope during the patient’s illness and in their own bereavement.
  • Uses multidisciplinary team approach to address the needs of patients and their families, including bereavement counselling if indicated.
  • It enhances the quality of life and may positively influence the course of illness.

When is palliative care appropriate?

Palliative care is appropriate for individuals with serious illnesses, this specialist care is available at any stage across the age spectrum and can be given in tandem with curative treatment. For example, from diagnosis and during cancer treatment palliative care specialists can be involved to assist in managing pain, symptoms and side effects while medics continue to aggressively tackle the illness.

What types of illnesses is palliative care appropriate for?

Palliative care is appropriate for any life limiting illness causing long term pain and discomfort and or it can be for chronic condition which tends to cause periodic symptoms. While acknowledging that there are various illnesses appropriate for palliative care, it is also very important to point out that, due to our limitation with regards to capacity and resources we shall start working with cancer patients. As we extent our services to include other illnesses, the relevant stakeholders and members of the public will be informed accordingly.

In pursuit towards improving Universal Health Coverage (UHC), we believe incorporating palliative care in the already existing health programs will hasten palliative care to be accessible to most of Basotho who need this specialist care.

Some of the examples of common illnesses for which people seek palliative care intervention are as follows:

  • Cancer
  • Heart Disease/CHF
  • Renal (Kidney)Disease /Failure
  • Respiratory Disease /COPD
  • Chronic Liver Disease
  • Stroke (CVA)
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Multiple sclerosis and others

What types of symptoms is palliative care appropriate for?

Some common symptoms for which people seek palliative treatment include:

  • Pain
  • Emotional and / spiritual distress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea / vomiting
  • Bowel problems -constipation / diarrhoea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Delirium

Are palliative and hospice care the same thing? How is palliative treatment different?

Most of the times, this is the common palliative care question. Palliative and hospice care are NOT the same. Palliative care starts from diagnosis phase, during treatment phase through to remission or survivorship. While on the other hand, patients on hospice care will still continue to receive palliative care (pain and symptom management). The aim of hospice care is towards comfort care. Hospice care commences at the point at which patient’s illness is diagnosed as terminal to the end of their time, regardless of how long they still got. There is more care demands in hospice than in palliative care.

Yaa Otoo, W.N 2020, Demystifying Palliative Care: An Integral Piece of Healthcare That Is Missing, ehospice, viewed 02 September 2020, https://ehospice.com/africa_posts/demystifying-palliative-care-an-integral-part-of-healthcare-piece-that-is-missing/

What does palliative care treatment entail?

Palliative care responsibilities entail among others to prescribe medications which address pain and / symptoms, also recommending therapies such as physiotherapist and or occupational therapist. Empowering the patient with relevant resources so they can make informed decisions is another essentials role of palliative care. Palliative care is achieved via multidisciplinary approach in which case the doctors, nurses, social workers, chaplains, therapists all work together for the best interest of their client.

Do you have additional palliative care questions?