The importance of supportive palliative care

Katie Longmate – Hospice Nurse Specialist

Today, people are living longer than ever.

Even those facing serious chronic illnesses can often enjoy a much longer quality of life than past generations thanks to advancement in the treatment of diseases including cancer, heart disease, and COPD.

Patients I meet often express fear of a “terminal” diagnosis. I discuss with patients that they can have a good quality of life living with an advanced diagnosis.

My job is to continue to care for patients with a life limiting illness and keep them as well as I can for as long as I can so they can enjoy their lives. One way I do this is by providing supportive palliative care, this includes helping them to manage their symptoms related to their illness or supporting them psychologically through difficult times.

Part of this care is to support patients and their families in planning for the future and helping them to maintain a good quality of life. Supportive palliative care can also allow patients and relatives to be open about their feelings, worries and concerns. Some of these worries can be around the future and what may lie ahead.

Throughout my experience I have learnt that all families are different. It can take time to get to know each family you work with and the relationships that each family member has to the patient. Having a life limiting illness can change the role that the patient has in their family, they may have been a carer for someone else close to them but now need help with their own care, this understandably can be challenging.

Research suggests that alongside the rewards and pride of caring for a loved one, many carers experience considerable stress. Caring can sometimes have a negative impact on health and wellbeing, carers can sometimes hide their suffering and feel isolated at times. When we deliver care, we also know how vital it is to support relatives and loved ones.

Talking and being supportive to patients and their loved ones can play a vital part in how they think and feel each day and can influence a more positive experience that allows the patient to make the most of the time they have with their families.

If we talk openly about supportive palliative care, it can help people have open discussions and plan for their future, we know these conversations can feel daunting, but we are here to help people have these important discussions. This can help to reduce stress and anxiety for not just the patient, but for their loved one’s as well.

Find out more information on how we can help those dealing with a palliative and end of life illness.