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Palliative care is a multidisciplinary approach to specialised medical care for people with serious illnesses. It focuses on providing patients with relief from the symptoms, pain, physical stress, and mental stress of a serious illness—whatever the diagnosis. The goal of such therapy is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family. Palliative care is provided by a team of physicians, nurses, and other health professionals who work together with the primary care physician and referred specialists (or, for patients who don't have those, hospital or hospice staff) to provide an extra layer of support. It is appropriate at any age and at any stage in a serious illness and can be provided along with curative treatment.
Physicians sometimes use the term palliative care in a sense meaning palliative therapies without curative intent, when no cure can be expected . For example, tumor debulking can continue to reduce pain from mass effect even when it is no longer curative. A clearer usage is palliative, noncurative therapy when that is what is meant, because palliative care can be used along with curative or aggressive therapies.
Medications and treatments are said to have a palliative effect if they relieve symptoms without having a curative effect on the underlying disease or cause. This can include treating nausea related to chemotherapy or something as simple as morphine to treat the pain of broken leg or ibuprofen to treat aching related to an influenza infection (flu jab).
Although the concept of palliative care is not new, most physicians have traditionally concentrated on trying to cure patients. Treatments for the alleviation of symptoms were viewed as hazardous and seen as inviting addiction and other unwanted side effects.
Palliative care began in the hospice movement and is now widely used outside of traditional hospice care. Hospices were originally places of rest for travellers in the 4th century. In the 19th century a religious order established hospices for the dying in Ireland and London. The modern hospice is a relatively recent concept that originated and gained momentum in the United Kingdom after the founding of St. Christopher's Hospice in 1967. It was founded by Dame Cicely Saunders, widely regarded as the founder of the modern hospice movement. In 2008 the Department of Health was publishing End of Life Care Strategy - a set of initiatives as guidance which highlights five very important priorities for care of the dying person, promoting high quality care for all adults at the end of life.
Our Supportive Care
There is a reductionist tendency of doctors to consider palliative care as symptom control. Whilst good symptom control is vital, other non-drug aspects of palliative care may be equally as important to the patient and their family. Anyone facing a life-threatening illness will require supportive care in addition to specific treatment for their condition. Elements of such care include:
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