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Sunday, 24th September 2023
What is palliative care?

Palliative careis the kind of care we would all want for ourselves and the people we love. It provides the relief of unnecessary physical, psychological and spiritual pain caused by life-limiting illnesses from the point of diagnosis to the end of life and even bereavement support for family members.  

For most people, 'palliative' isn't an everyday word.  This contributes to confusion about palliative care, which is often mistakenly associated just with hospice and end-of-life care. While these are certainly part of it, palliative care also covers care and support given to the patient and their family from the moment of diagnosis and should also be part of comprehensive chronic care.. 

The Oxford English Dictionary defines 'to palliate' as 'to alleviate (disease) without curing it'. Much of palliative care is about maintaining and improving a patient's quality of life throughout the course of a life-limiting illness.  With effective management of physical pain and symptoms, and the right psychological support, people with such illnesses can live full and rich lives for far longer than they otherwise would.  That's why palliative care is so remarkable.

Palliative care has four main components, each of which extends beyond the patient to include their families and carers:

  • Management of physical pain and symptoms
  • The promotion of emotional and mental health
  • Social and practical support
  • Spiritual care  

The benefits of holistic palliative care include :

  • Relieves unnecessary physical and psychological suffering and improves adherence to interventions
  • Enables patients to participate in family and community life
  • Can free both patients and carers to resume work and make a living
  • Can keep families (and in some cases, communities) functioning
  • Underpins the dignity of the patient right until their death
  • Ensures patients and their carers are never alone.

APCA regards palliative care as holistic care that is applicable from diagnosis (or beforehand) until death – and beyond, as bereavement care for the family. It is focused on the needs of patients, their families and carers, and can be provided across a range of settings and models, including home-based care, facility-based care, and inpatient and day care. It should be integrated into existing health systems.

Watch the journey of an African boy named Faasi and the impact palliative care services make to him and millions of others around the world.