For many patients and their families, dealing with a life-limiting or terminal illness is a scary and stressful time. As such, hearing the term ‘Palliative Care’ can bring about a whirlwind of emotions.

Many people mistake palliative care for end-of-life care, but it is far more than that. Palliative care helps patients live comfortably with their advanced illnesses, and having a greater understanding of it can minimise your fear.

What is palliative care?

Palliative care is person-centred care, treatment, and support to help patients with a life-limiting, terminal disease. Patients will be supported by a team of general practitioners, nurses, and other specialists with different skills to help them live comfortably.

Here are some examples of palliative care in action:

  • Helping patients and their families come to terms with terminal and sensitive issues
  • Patient assistance with day-to-day activities such as washing and eating
  • Physical support, such as pain management
  • Spiritual, social, and emotional support

What emotions can you expect to feel if a loved one is in palliative care?

Seeing a loved one in palliative care is an emotional journey, and it’s common for you to feel fearful, guilty, anxious, and even depressed. You may also suppress your own emotions to be a strong support system for your loved one.

You should reach out for emotional support during this time, as taking care of a loved one with an advanced illness can be challenging. The scope of palliative care also includes providing emotional support for the families and friends, and you can refer to many resources to help you in this journey.

For example, Palliative Care Australia provides plenty of links, resources, and training videos on navigating care for your loved one. You can also visit Services AustraliaCarerHelp, or Carer Gateways Counselling Service for more information and support. 

What level of care should you expect from palliative care?

Palliative care begins from the moment it’s requested and for as long as possible. However, patients will have to ask for a referral from their GP or specialist to access these types of care.

According to the Victorian Department of Health, some examples of palliative care services include:

  • Community palliative care – holistic medical care, as well as information, equipment and medications for patients.
  • Inpatient palliative care – complex symptoms management, pain management, and end-of-life care.
  • Consultancy teams – advice, support, training, and education for patients and carers
  • Out-patient clinics – care planning, assessment, and intervention for patients in the early stages of palliative care
  • Day hospices – psychosocial and emotional support for patients and their carers

How to prepare to visit someone in palliative care?

Visiting a loved one in palliative care is confronting, and it’s normal to want to avoid seeing them due to fear or grief. It can be difficult to know how to act or behave in front of a person nearing the end of their life.

If you’re anxious about visiting a loved one in palliative care, shift your focus towards them and their feelings. Anyone with a terminal illness would be happy with visits from their nearest and dearest. For patients that are unable to talk, you can simply sit with them in silence with a book or a newspaper.

Before your visit, call ahead and set a time with the patient. You could also ask them if they’d like any comfort items or food beforehand – and check with their Aged Care Home or hospital on any item restrictions.

Once you are there, be sure to get comfortable and sit with them instead of standing, as it’s always good to be at their eye level. Remember that visiting a loved one is a treasured occasion, so it’s okay to laugh, be cheerful, and share fond memories with each other.

Do people leave palliative care?

Palliative care is not just end-of-life care. It’s about helping the patient manage their life-limiting illness. Some patients live for years while receiving palliative care and create beautiful memories with their families and friends. A good care team can determine what stage your loved one needs in palliative care and guide them along the correct pathways. So with the right people, navigating palliative care can be a meaningful experience for you and your loved one.

If you’re looking for palliative care for your loved one, contact CareAbout to look for various professional and trustworthy Home Care Package providers.