Let's face it, the words "palliative care", can evoke spine tingling fear and anguish for individuals and their families. This usually follows a diagnosis of "cancer", another equally daunting word. With this relatively new concept of care, usually poorly explained, is it any wonder people want to avoid the topic out of fear that it is a sign they are 'giving up'.
"Palliative" care is an approach to care which encompasses and depends on an interdisciplinary team of doctors, nurses, social workers, caregivers, volunteers, etc.
"Cancer Care Ontario has identified palliative care as an essential component of high quality cancer care."
The World Health Organization defines palliative care as:
".......an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problem associated with life-threatening illness, in conjunction with other therapies that are intended to prolong life." The aim is to include individuals at a stage in their illness when cure may be unlikely, but not impossible.
With the demands and restrictions on our Health Care System, this approach is not always readily available to individuals unless, by definition, they have a prognosis of less than six months. This again promotes the confusion and fear surrounding "palliative" care.
"Palliative" care is compassion, symptom management, advocacy for the individual, listening, comfort, all with the ultimate goal of ensuring that they can maintain the best quality of life during this journey, however long that may be.