Palliative care combines treatment, nursing, occupational therapy and / or physiotherapy for people with advanced cancer. While it does not cure one’s cancer, palliative care helps in coping with symptoms of cancer as well as with practical problems of daily life. It can also involve spiritual care and support of relatives and other carers. Palliative care considers:
- Providing relief from pain and other uncomfortable symptoms
- Can be provided in home, hospital or a hospice setting
- Not prolonging treatment when it is no longer beneficial
- Not ending a life deliberately
- Supporting families and friends during one’s illness and bereavement
How palliative care works:
- You may choose the worker involved and how often they visit
- The visits depend on how you feel, what problems you experience and how your own carers are managing
- Palliative services are most likely to coordinate your needs with your doctor and nurses from the hospital, instead of talking over all the care and treatment decisions
- Among the areas palliative care would take note of include:
- physical – it is common to feel pain, tiredness, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, breathlessness and insomnia. Most of these symptoms can be managed with medications. Other methods could be nutrition therapy or physical therapy.
- practical – you may be able to ask your palliative care team to help you coordinate services such as financial advise, legal matters, insurance, employment issues and other related matters.
- emotional – cancer and treatment can be overwhelming. Depression, anxiety and fear can occur in the patient and family member. Counseling and support groups may be suggested.
- spiritual: cancer could increase one’s faith or cause one to question it. There are expert who can help you explore your beliefs and values so you can reach a point of acceptance and find peace.
Family members can also receive palliative care as they could be overwhelmed by how the diagnosis has changed your life and theirs. They may need to adjust their lifestyle to care for you, yet they have other responsibilities. Sometimes the stress of not understanding the disease or not being able to help much causes them to worry or fear. Palliative care is able to help families and friends cope with how cancer directly or indirectly affected them.
- A place providing day care and long-term residential palliative care services
- Usually equipped with hospital facilities but in a homelike atmosphere
- Helps bring pain or other symptoms under control
- Some cancer patients may check into a hospice care so their caregiver can take a break
- Some patients may go into hospice to spend their last weeks in a suitable environment
Some people continue to have treatment even if it only offers a small chance of recovery while others may choose to have symptom management to maintain a better quality of life. What does quality of life mean to you? Would chemotherapy be an option if it gives you 2 good weeks every month? Or would you like to spend your time doing things you enjoy without effects that treatment brings?
There are individuals who find that treatment makes them feel sick, especially when a cure is unlikely. If you are considering stopping treatment, ask yourself, Are you feeling bad from the side effects of treatment or from advancing disease or emotionally? Some of these can be treated.
Discuss with your doctor, a counselor or a social worker who can help you weigh your options before you make a final decision.