Many people fear hearing the words 'palliative care'. It is often perceived to mean that the end-of-life is near. Yet, not everyone referred to palliative care stops curative treatment or faces end-of-life in the near future. In fact, timely access can improve quality-of-life and help some people live well within the constraints of their illness for a longer period of time.
Palliative care is as much about life as it is about death. Its role is to enhance quality of life and help patients maintain their independence for as long as possible. It ensures people's physical, practical, emotional and spiritual needs are catered for. It helps empower patients in their decision-making about treatment and ongoing care, and focuses on making time with family and friends as valuable as it can be within the limitations of illness.
Studies have shown that integrating palliative care early into treatment plans can significantly help with managing symptoms such as pain, nausea and loss of appetite. These studies suggest it can lead to people feeling better and living longer.
For others, however, cancer advances rapidly and palliative care services are used for only a few weeks or months. In these cases, the end-of-life aspect of palliative care becomes important to focus on, and making this stage as comfortable and dignified as possible.
National Palliative Care Week 22-28 May was a time to raise awareness and understanding about living well with chronic illness. Visit Palliative Care Australia for ideas about how to start conversations with family and friends about your wishes.
To find out more about palliative care, download or order a free copy of our booklet Understanding Palliative Care. Alternatively, call 13 11 20 and speak to one of our experienced and understanding cancer nurses.