What is palliative care?
Palliative care is person-centred care that helps people with a progressive, life-limiting illness to live as fully and comfortably as possible.
The main goal of palliative care is to help maintain quality of life. It does this through identifying and catering to physical, emotional, cultural, social and spiritual needs.
Palliative care also offers support to families and carers.
Palliative Care Services
Palliative care services are wide-ranging and can be tailored to an individual’s specific needs.
Some common services received through palliative care are:
- Pain relief
- Assistance with breathing difficulties, nausea, and other symptoms
- Organisation of equipment such as a wheelchair, walking frame or special bed
- Counselling, grief and bereavement support, as well as avenues for families and carers to talk about sensitive issues
- Support for people to meet cultural, spiritual, emotional and social obligations and concerns
- Links to other home and financial support services
Identifying needs and developing an appropriate care plan is also part of the palliative care team’s role.
Understanding how needs will be met, symptoms managed, and wishes adhered to are crucial pieces of the palliative care puzzle.
The team may also speak to family members to determine their goals and wishes for care.
Can you receive palliative care in your own home?
Yes! Depending on your individual circumstance, you can choose where it is you wish to receive palliative care services. Many people prefer to receive palliative and end of life care at home, however, this decision is dependent on the nature of your particular condition, your location, support network and the availability of services in your area.
Movement between hospital, your own home, a specialised palliative care unit or a residential aged care home is common. You may spend some time in palliative care in a hospital before being moved into palliative care in your home. Your needs are closely monitored by your palliative care team, so it may be that your needs become too complex to manage at home, and you are required to move into a palliative care unit.
If you have family and/or friends who are close to you and can provide a lot of support, it is more likely that you will be able to remain in your home while receiving palliative care.
Where possible, your needs and wishes will always be respected however sometimes your palliative care team will decide that receiving care in your own home is not the best option for you.
Cost of palliative care
If you are accessing palliative care through the public health system, most of the core services are funded by the government. This is the case whether you receive care in your own home or as an inpatient.
There may be additional costs involved if you are receiving care at home. Some of these are:
- If your care requires specialised equipment, there is likely to be a fee associated with the hiring of this
- If you require 24-hour care, you may need to pay for your own nursing staff
- Medication costs
- You may need to pay for additional services such as physiotherapy or psychology
Is palliative care the same as end of life care?
Palliative care is not always end of life care. It certainly does include that when the time comes, but people can enter and exit palliative care without receiving end of life care.
What is a death doula?
You may not have heard of a death doula, but they are becoming more common and play an important role in the end of life process.
A death doula is a nonmedical professional trained to care for a terminally ill person’s physical, emotional, and spiritual needs during the death process.
The role is also referred to as an “end-of-life coach,” “soul midwife,” “death midwife,” or “transition guide.”
What does a death doula do?
Death doulas assist in the dying process. They provide support to the dying person and to their family and friends, helping them to cope with death. The support received from a death doula varies depending on individual wants and needs, but can include the following:
- Education around death, and recognition of death as a natural part of life
- Development of advanced care and death plans, and how the final days will unfold
- Providing information on end-of-life choices, such as home funerals, burial, and cremation
- Advocating for the needs and wishes of the dying person
- Assistance in administering final wishes
- Guidance around finding meaning
- Emotional and psychological support, easing the suffering of grief
- Assisting with funeral planning
- Helping people to understand their rights and responsibilities
How do I find a death doula in Australia?
Death doulas are becoming increasingly common in Australia. A great resource is The Australian Doula College, who have further information and an online database of doulas.