Palliative care is a relatively new field in medicine. It was established because of a recognition that there is a wide range of care that is needed by patients and their loved ones who are facing a life threatening illness.
Palliative care is all about comfort and support. It can be accessed at any point during an illness, and brings in the specialist help of a team of doctors, nurses, spiritual advisors, pharmacists, nutritionists and social workers.
The whole point of palliative care is to add quality to life. it is designed to make things easier, to take away some of the stressors and to ensure that everything that needs to be done, is done.
In other words, palliative care is a holistic, patient-centred approach for all patients and their families from the moment of diagnosis of a life threatening illness. In South Africa, it has often been associated with end of life care, but according to the World Health organisation’s definition, it ‘is applicable early in the course of illness, in conjunction with other therapies that are implemented to prolong life or cure the illness’.
The Hospice Palliative Care Association’s website is also a wealth of information.