Why is Palliative care important?

Palliative care is a specialized approach to medical care that focuses on improving the quality of life for patients with serious illnesses. It is designed to relieve symptoms, pain, and stress, regardless of the stage of the disease or the chances of recovery. 

The primary goal of a palliative care team is to enhance comfort and improve the overall quality of life for patients and their families. This type of care is provided along with other treatments the patient may be receiving. 

The palliative care team may include various professionals, such as palliative care specialists, nurses, physiotherapists, social workers, nutritionists, financial advisors, and spiritual advisors. They support coping with the additional challenges and responsibilities often accompanying serious illnesses.

Who needs it?

Palliative care is necessary for a broad range of diseases. Most adults requiring palliative care have chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, AIDS, and diabetes. Numerous other conditions may necessitate palliative care, including kidney failure, chronic liver disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, neurological diseases, dementia, congenital anomalies, and drug-resistant tuberculosis.

Among patients needing palliative care, pain and difficulty breathing are two prevalent and significant symptoms. For instance, at the end of their lives, approximately 80% of patients with AIDS or cancer, and 67% of patients with cardiovascular disease or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, will experience moderate to severe pain. Managing pain often requires using opioids, which are vital in palliative care.

Benefits of palliative care

  • Symptom management support: Palliative care specialists help manage symptoms and pain, improving the patient’s comfort and well-being.
  • Improved quality of life: Palliative care can enhance the patient’s overall quality of life, particularly in advanced cancer and Parkinson’s.
  • Reduced risk of depression: Early palliative care has been associated with a lower risk of depression, especially in individuals recently diagnosed with advanced cancer.
  • Longer survival: Some research suggests that receiving palliative care may be linked to longer survival, particularly for individuals with advanced cancer.
  • Support in decision-making: Palliative care specialists guide and support patients and their families in making important decisions about care, treatment options, and emotional coping.
  • Support for family members and caregivers: Palliative care extends support to family members and caregivers, offering instruction, guidance, and emotional assistance as they care for their loved ones.

Overall, palliative care focuses on improving the patient’s quality of life, offering comfort, and providing unwavering support to both patients and their families throughout the journey of the illness.

Palliative Care Scenario in India

In India, the palliative care scenario has witnessed significant developments in recent years, with the establishment of dedicated centers and community-based programs. These initiatives focus on comprehensive care, including pain management and psychosocial support. For example, the Tata Memorial Centre in Mumbai has a dedicated palliative care department that offers specialized care to cancer patients. 

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