Health Professionals

Palliative care is:

“… an approach that improves quality of life of patients and their families facing the problems associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention of suffering by early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychological and spiritual.” WHO

Palliative care is the responsibility of all health professionals and is delivered by two distinct categories of health professionals:

  • Primary care providers; and,
  • Health professionals who specialise in palliative care.

Palliative care is an active and total approach to the care of a patient with a life-limiting illness. It focuses on enhancing the patient's quality of life and supporting the family.

This is achieved through preventing and relieving suffering by means of early identification, assessment, intervention and treatment of pain and other problems, provision of psychosocial and spiritual support; and care through death and bereavement.

Palliative care is indicated: when the focus of care for the patient moves from the cure of the illness to maximising the patient's quality of life. A palliative approach to care may therefore be put in place at any stage where the effects of the life-limiting illness or treatment begin to compromise the patient's quality of life - in the physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual or social areas.  Palliative care is not simply for the terminal stages of life, nor does it end when the person dies.

"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 the patient live as actively as possible until death;
  • Offers a support system to help the family cope during the patient's illness and in their bereavement;
  • Uses a team approach to address the needs of the patient and their family, including bereavement counselling;
  • Aims to enhance quality of life, and may also positively influence the course of the illness; and
  • Is applicable early in the course of illness, in conjunction with other therapies that are intended to prolong life, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, and includes those investigations needed to better understand and manage distressing clinical complications." WHO

Palliative care is provided not only to the patient with the life-limiting illness but to their carer/family as needed - together comprising the unit of care. It is also appropriate in supporting carers and family members both prior to and following the patient's death. For a small number of people, that process may be more complex than anticipated and some may develop significant psychological and emotional issues. It is recommended that the bereaved carers receive follow-up to ensure that potential problems are identified early and referred for bereavement support if required.