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All You Need To Know About Palliative Care

Jun 4, 2008
As a form of specialized medical practice, palliative care is a fairly new and modern method of helping patients who are diagnosed with a serious condition or are terminally ill to be as calm and free from pain as is medically possible.

This form of care also attempts to alleviate the psychological problems associated with illnesses such as cancer. This article aims to provide an understanding of the concept of palliative care, a brief history of how this branch of medicine came to be established and finally an insight into how effective palliative care is administered.

What is Palliative Care? The principles of palliative care are to alleviate pain, reduce suffering, to provide psychological help and to provide a network of support for the patient's friends and family. This form of care primarily focuses on treating the effects of an illness both on the patient and those around them.

This process is clear in its definitive goals and is in place from the moment a person is diagnosed, through the treatment and the eventual outcome. This focus can be either the physical and mental well-being of the patient or the relatives following bereavement.

Where Did Palliative Care Come From? The origins of palliative care can be traced back to the hospice movement in the last century. In countries such as Ireland and England, many people would travel from place to place and often fall ill whilst in transit. Hospices were established by the Church and other religious organizations that were designed to help many of the people that fell ill between destinations and as such did not have the care of their families.

In more recent times, these principles of altruistic care have been developed within the United States to help benefit over one million ill and terminally-ill people. This concept was originally adopted by volunteer groups, before being established as a significant and important part of the general medical health system.

How is Palliative Care Administered? Palliative care is a fairly simple concept to understand and it is obvious why its application can benefit the patient and the patient's family and friends. In regard to this it is important to understand how palliative care is administered in practice.

The process of palliative care in the United States, usually takes place within the patient's home. Often a terminally-ill person will request that they spend the remainder of their life at home and so the location of this care can be an important factor in ensuring that they are as stress-free as their illness will allow.

In the United States, this form of care can either be offered as a benefit under the Medicare system or through private donors and other private care systems. Once a patient begins receiving palliative care, then a team is assembled to cater for all aspects of their illness and the management of any associated related stress that this might cause. As such, the program can require the services of doctors, psychologists, social workers, chaplains and so on.

This demonstrates that palliative care has to be both multi-functional and flexible in its approach and application. This form of care recognizes that the physical and mental needs of the patient and the family will change as the illness progresses and so the skills and the administration of the care is wholly dependent on this as well.
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