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Palliative Care: Comfort at End of Life

Aug 18, 2007
Palliative care is somewhat a new term to many when it comes to end of life care. It is an approach to healthcare that specializes in the relief of suffering and achieving the best quality of life for persons with advanced illness. When we near the end of life we seek relief from pain, a sense of control, to relieve family burdens and to strengthen relationships with loved ones.

Palliative care involves the person with advanced illness, their family members, in addition to the physician, a nurse, a chaplain, a pharmacist and other appropriate disciplines in group meetings. The goal is to involve the family in discussions regarding the patient's desires. This may include life prolonging therapy or comfort measures that may include hospice care.

Today, because most most individuals are uncomfortable discussing end of life measures, many seek life prolonging therapy and then pass away when all options have been exhausted. There is little consideration given to other options like palliative care. In part this is because palliative care is a relatively new concept. In part this is because families and the person with advanced illness do not want to be seen as giving up.

For those in the healthcare field who participate in palliative care discussions every day, discussion with family members is an obvious decision. For families who face this opportunity once or twice in a lifetime it is difficult and even heart wrenching.

Open communication allows families to become more informed about options for persons with advanced illness. Seventy percent of hospitals, with 250 beds or larger. offer palliative care programs. Family members and individuals should take advantage of this important educational benefit in order to make the best decision for themselves or a family member.

A complicating factor is also that individuals and families hesitate to discuss end of life care because they don't know what to say or how to discuss the subject. Palliative care personnel at hospitals serve as intermediaries by introducing information regarding palliative care and the process to family members. Often, just having someone to talk to who has been through the experience is helpful. Many family members are often relieved to have the support of professionals who can guide them to make the best decisions.

Palliative care is truly a process that can support individuals and families through the uncharted waters of end of life care and decisions.
About the Author
Pamela D. Wilson is a care navigator supporting mature individuals and their family members regarding health care and associated matters. Visit Pamela D. Wilson, Inc. at http://www.pameladwilson.com
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