HomeLifestyle & TravelHealth & BeautyWhy palliative care is crucial when terminal illness strikes

Why palliative care is crucial when terminal illness strikes

When a loved one receives the devastating diagnosis of a life-threatening disease, the heartbreaking news can cause panic, depression and a feeling of hopelessness. However, palliative care is designed to help the patient and family cope.

About 100 000 patients and their families receive hospice services every year, mostly in the comfort of their own homes, according to the Hospice Palliative Care Association of South Africa (HPCA). This quick Q&A will give you all the basic information needed to understand what this type of care is about, who needs it and why it is so helpful:

What is palliative care?

Palliative care is multidisciplinary medical care that supports those with life-threatening diseases, most commonly AIDS and cancer. This specialised care aims to optimise a patient’s quality of life, and support their families, at every stage of illness.

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Who needs this type of care?

When a life-threatening disease is diagnosed and continues, regardless whether treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy directed at the disease, are received or not.

Palliative care may be provided in healthcare facilities, community centres (such as hospice community centres) or at home. 

How does it help?

It includes the prevention and management of pain and other symptoms associated with a patient’s illness, and supports a patient’s psychological and spiritual needs. The patient’s family is advised on how to provide care at home, and bereavement support is given if a patient passes away.

Some hospitals offer hospice programmes and palliative care teams. Several specially trained healthcare providers including medical doctors, nurses, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, dietitians, pharmacists and social workers can provide palliative care. 

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