Defining palliative care
According to the definition by World Health Organization (WHO), palliative care:
- provides relief from pain and other distressing symptoms;
- affirms life and regards dying as a normal process;
- intends neither to hasten or postpone death;
- integrates the psychological and spiritual aspects of patient care;
- offers a support system to help patients live as actively as possible until death;
- offers a support system to help the family cope during the patient’s illness and in their own bereavement;
- uses a team approach to address the needs of patients and their families, including bereavement counselling, if indicated;
- will enhance quality of life, and may also positively influence the course of illness.
Simply put, palliative care focuses on providing and maintaining the highest quality of life of the individual — often living with a life-threatening disease — and their family, who is usually the primary caregivers of the individual. The goal of palliative care is to prevent, identify and treat — as early as possible — the symptoms and side effects of the disease. Unlike a one-size-fits-all solution, palliative care focuses on the specific person as a whole (i.e. person-centred care) and considers their physical, psychosocial and spiritual well-being as well.