Palliative care plans might be implemented at any stage of a serious illness or near the end of a patient’s life. The plans typically aim to ease suffering and address symptoms of disease or reactions to treatment. Most plans use a holistic approach by offering clinical, psychological, and spiritual assistance to a patient. Palliative care plans might be developed for an elderly patient or a child facing chronic illness.
A team of professionals, including doctors, nurses, home health aides, and social workers, typically participate in palliative care based on an individual’s situation. The team might also include religious leaders to address spiritual needs of a patient who is severely ill or dying. Each member of the team works to help the patient maintain the best quality of life possible as he or she deals with an illness or adverse effects of treatment.
Medical professionals might administer medication to ease pain or other symptoms causing discomfort for patients. Typical complaints associated with disease include trouble breathing, fatigue, decreased appetite leading to weight loss, and other physical maladies. Doctors and nurses aim to prevent and relieve suffering by treating these side effects. These measures might begin as soon as the patient is diagnosed with a disease or terminal illness.
Social workers or psychologists address the emotional health of patients facing life-changing conditions. Palliative care plans dealing with psychological issues help patients handle depression, anxiety, and fear. Mental health experts might teach patients relaxation techniques to address sleep disturbances caused by anxiety. They typically counsel patients’ families to help them cope with a diagnosis of terminal illness.
Hospice usually refers to end-of-life palliative care plans, enacted when patients are expected to die within a few months. These services might be available in the patient’s home through regular visits by members of the palliative care team. Spiritual care could be offered by a religious leader if a patient seeks counseling. Hospice palliative care plans typically employ no extraordinary measures to prolong life, but treat the patient’s symptoms as death approaches.
These services commonly include helping patients make critical decisions on the use of artificial life support equipment. Patients might name someone to make medical decisions for them when they become unable to decide for themselves. Palliative care plans for terminal patients typically include drafting wills and getting financial affairs in order. Some patients prefer to plan their own funerals to ensure their wishes are followed.
Palliative care might be implemented in a hospital or outpatient clinic. It might also be carried out in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Hospice services commonly occur in the home, but typically are also available in hospitals and other health care settings.