Making the most of life with a terminal illness often depends a lot on having the symptoms under control. Palliative care is really important to relieve symptoms and treat any physical problems. Then you can get on with what you want or need to do.
What is palliative care?
Palliative care is aimed at improving the quality of life for you and the rest of your family by looking at your physical, practical, emotional and spiritual needs. It’s not about ending life early (this is euthanasia and is illegal in Australia) and it’s not about prolonging life at all costs.
You can usually receive palliative care:
in hospital (there might be a specialist palliative care unit)
in a hospice (a place that specialises in caring for terminally ill patients).
Sometimes people move between places depending on the type of care they need.
Starting palliative care doesn’t necessarily mean you are going to die soon. It does mean that your cancer can’t be cured and so you are likely to die from it at some stage. Your treatment will now focus on managing pain, nausea and other side effects of your cancer and helping you cope with anxiety or depression. Palliative care is also about helping you to find meaningful ways to spend the time you have left, to find ways to connect with what is important and enable you to have a say in what that looks like.
It’s best to meet the palliative care team early so your symptoms and all your needs can be managed and you and your family can get to know the staff – it is amazing how much knowing and feeling comfortable with the team can help everyone.
Being referred to palliative care will most likely be a really tough time for you and your family. It will mean you have to think about and deal with a whole lot of stuff that is scary and at times just too hard to contemplate.
The aim of palliative care is to assist you to have the best quality of life for as long as possible. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and demand the best care and support available.