As a person shifts from curative treatment to palliative care there is often a continuing or increasing need for additional support and physical care. For many, this will involve an informal carer.
An informal carer provides physical and emotional support to a person with a life limiting illness. This support is unregulated and is usually provided with no encouragement or financial compensation.
In the palliative setting, it is important that the nurse can identify the carer. This is particularly valuable in planning for preferred place of care, in upholding end of life wishes and in the setting of managing medicines as for many this will be a new (and possibly frightening) responsibility.
Effective management of medications requires:
- Coordination of new and ongoing medicines supplies
- Storage (and disposal of) medications
- Administration of different formulations of as needed and regularly administered medications, and
- Monitoring the response (including adverse reactions).
Evidence shows that carers can feel unsupported in these complex tasks.
Carers will often have interests (other dependents, employment, financial hardship and their own health issues) that complete with their role as a carer and practical solutions may need to be implemented. In Australia, there are a number of government allowances that can lessen the financial burden associated with caring and may assist in the implementation of these practical solutions.
Nurses that are in tune with the needs of the carer will provide more thorough patient care.