Over the past few years, palliative care has been gaining more attention as a viable option for patients and families. The goal of this type of care is to provide comfort in the patient’s final days, weeks or months. Palliative home care can be an invaluable resource for those needing assistance with this type of care to provide support and assistance to patients who are in the last stages of life in their own homes.
However, it requires the input of family members, caregivers, hospice professionals and other healthcare workers to ensure that all aspects of the person’s needs are being met. Knowing what to expect from palliative home care can be difficult, but these six essential elements make it effective.
Integrated teamwork is a key component of quality palliative home care. Palliative teams are often made up of a social worker, a physician, nurses and many other specialists. All team members should know about the management of pain, symptom control and any psycho-social issues such as depression or anxiety that might arise. This team approach makes it easier to develop an individualized plan with each person to meet their needs at home.
Three Oaks Hospice notes that this collaborative care setting includes all team members working together to provide an individualized plan. This can include deciding what type of medication or treatment they should use and when it needs to be administered. All decisions are made based on patient preference, as well as their medical condition.
Management of Pain and Physical Symptoms
One of the most significant challenges for people with advanced illness is pain and physical symptoms. Palliative care seeks to reduce those distressing symptoms by treating the underlying cause, not just their effects. This can be done through the administration of medications or other alternative treatments methods like massage therapy, acupuncture, therapeutic touch and relaxation techniques.
The goal is to help people become more comfortable, not to cure them. Pain relief is an important symptom management strategy for all people with ailments like cancer because it can reduce distress and improve their quality of life. Pain control should be assessed regularly by a trained health care provider who has experience in palliative medicine or pain management.
Palliative care is holistic care that focuses on the physical, emotional and social needs of people near death. Quality palliative homecare should have:
- A balance between medical interventions and supportive care
- Flexible hours for both caregivers and patients to spend time together
- A focus on goals such as comfort, quality of life, dignity and meaning
- An environment where the caregiver takes care of both physical needs (food, cleanliness) as well as spiritual needs (listening to stories or music)
Compassionate, Caring and Skilled Providers
Compassionate, caring and skilled providers are the cornerstones of quality palliative care. When they first enter a patient’s home for an initial visit, these healthcare professionals must take their time to get acquainted with the patient and the family members living there. Understanding the importance of compassion is essential to delivering quality palliative care.
During this process, the most important thing for caregivers is to not just be compassionate, but also caring about how their patients feel and what they need to improve or maintain their current condition. Skilled and intuitive providers will always be able to tell if a patient is in pain, feeling frustrated or confused.
Patient and Family Preparedness
In order to ensure a quality end-of-life experience for the patient and their family, it’s important that everyone be prepared. It can take two weeks or longer for patients who are discharged from an inpatient facility to prepare themselves for living at home. This includes creating a plan with loved ones, finding out how they want care provided (hospice, home care) and making sure that the patient has all of their prescriptions and understands how to take them.
It’s also important to know how much pain relief medication a person needs before they leave the hospital so it can be prescribed in advance of discharge from the inpatient facility. Medications for controlling nausea or vomiting may need adjustment at this time as well. Some patients may need to be switched from IV to oral medications. Preparation will make it easier for everyone.
Timely Care Matters
In conclusion, timely and efficient access to coordinated medical, psychosocial, spiritual, educational and other needed services are critical in order to meet all needs for patients with advanced disease. Quality care and compassion are paramount during this time, so a comprehensive plan is of the utmost importance during this important period of care.