According to the World Health Organisation, 'Palliative care is an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problems associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial and spiritual ...' . It goes on to say that palliative care 'offers a support system to help patients live as actively as possible until death ...' .
This 'support system' is an important focus for allied health professionals. The approach within palliative care is holistic and takes into account the patient and whoever is important to them, with a focus on improving quality of life. Although the phrases palliative care and terminal care have been used interchangeably in the past, there are differences between the two. Palliative care refers not only to the last few days of life but can also apply to the months and even years before death. Terminal care on the other hand, relates to the last few days and hours before death.
Allied health professionals are essential in palliative care to:
- Assist patients in maintaining function and independence
- Provide education for patients and families receiving support
- Share knowledge about the progression of disease
- Help patients and family achieve their goals.