Palliative Care-What you need to know

May 11, 2015 in Best of Both, healthcare, Resources by MyBestofBothWorlds

Palliative Care-What you need to know

As a part of my new role and promotion at work, I recently joined our Palliative Care Committee and after only two meetings, I felt the need to blog about the topic, because I don’t think non-health care folks have a real understanding of what Palliative care is all about and just how critical it is to express your healthcare wishes.

According to WHO the World Health Organization this is the definition of Palliative Care:

Palliative care is an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problem associated with 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, psychosocial and spiritual. Palliative care:

  • provides relief from pain and other distressing symptoms;
  • affirms life and regards dying as a normal process;
  • intends neither to hasten or postpone death;
  • integrates the psychological and spiritual aspects of patient care;
  • offers a support system to help patients live as actively as possible until death;
  • offers a support system to help the family cope during the patients illness and in their own bereavement;
  • uses a team approach to address the needs of patients and their families, including bereavement counselling, if indicated;
  • will enhance quality of life, and may also positively influence the course of illness;
  • is applicable early in the course of illness, in conjunction with other therapies that are intended to prolong life, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, and includes those investigations needed to better understand and manage distressing clinical complications.

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Advanced Directives and Health Care Proxies are super important at any age!  Make sure you have conversations with your loved ones NOW-while there is no crisis and can complete some important documents.

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Advanced Directives are legal documents that allow you to outline your care preferences.  If you want to be kept alive under certain conditions or would rather be a DNR – do not resuscitate if your quality of life is not what you expected.  It’s important to establish your wishes and make them known in writing and by appointing a Health Care Proxy.

A Health Care Proxy is someone that you designate to act on your behalf when you are unable. This can be a family member or close friend.   You have to have a conversation with this person as it is a huge responsibility and this health care proxy must knows your wishes.  Additionally this person must be able to carry out the decisions you have discussed.  My advice is to also let others in your family know that you have chosen a specific person, so your wishes will be carried out.

A Living Will gives you the opportunity to commit to writing what your wishes are and while they are not legally binding in all states, it allows your family to know specifically what you would find as acceptable.

The reason these items Palliative Care and Advanced Directives are so important is that families in crisis when a loved one is diagnosed or failing have a tremendous amount of guilt and difficulty coming to consensus about what the patient would want.  There can be fighting, hurt feelings, and more importantly the patient may have to go unnecessary testing, be uncomfortable and needlessly suffer, due to the indecision.

Get educated and have these difficult conversations BEFORE they need to happen, and I think you will be happy you did!