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Understanding Palliative Care in Cancer Treatment

Palliative Care Interventions for Cancer Patients

Cancer Research UK tells us that “The aim of palliative treatment is to relieve symptoms and improve your quality of life… In advanced cancer, palliative treatment might help someone to live longer and more comfortably, even if they cannot be cured.” Palliative treatments are designed to help relieve pain and boost your holistic wellbeing, ensuring you live as comfortably as possible for as long as possible. Palliative Care from Helping Hands can help you to remain living in the home you love while having a dedicated carer to support you as often as you need them, whether that’s once a day or around the clock.

Pain and Symptom Management

A large aspect of palliative care in cancer patients is to keep any symptoms you are having as controlled as possible, especially any pain. Managing pain is essential for maintaining quality of life for as long as possible, and this is why a whole-person, holistic approach should be made when devising an individual’s palliative support. This ensures that individual needs are always kept at the forefront of a person’s support plan, including their physical, emotional, and spiritual requirements. By working closely with the wider healthcare team, such as your GP or community nurses, our carers can support you with relief from pain, mobility difficulties, stress and emotional distress, and everything else that impacts on quality of life. It’s also important that your family and loved ones are emotionally supported through this difficult and uncertain time, and a holistic approach to your palliative journey will take this into account as well.

Nutrition and Wellness

There’s no doubt that looking after our physical wellness can have an impact on our emotional wellbeing, and vice versa, and one way to do this is to ensure we are eating a nutritionally balanced diet and maintaining recommended fluid intake levels. Not doing so can lead to increased levels of confusion and the risk of infection, and for someone already on a palliative pathway these could have a damaging effect. If nutrition and hydration are becoming difficult to maintain because there are difficulties with swallowing or due to pain, the GP or community nurse should be able to introduce alternative methods of administering food and fluids to assist with this.

Improving Quality of Life for Cancer Patients and Their Families

Living with terminal cancer and being on a palliative pathway, the focus should always be on promoting comfort and maintaining a good quality of life through a range of different therapies and treatments. Physical and emotional wellbeing can be achieved in many different ways depending on the individual, and that is why a holistic approach is so important as it focuses on what is most important for that particular person. Knowing that the people who are close to them are also being supported will be a source of comfort to the person who is ill, which is why a support plan focusing on every aspect of their life, both physical and emotional, is vital.
Other services that aren’t directly related to physical condition include having counselling to tackle feelings of anxiety about the future and worries about end of life. You and your family may have concerns about how your last weeks and days will be but feel you can’t speak to each other about it for fear of upsetting them. Having a professional there to encourage conversations about feelings and understandable concerns may make all the difference to getting things said that have been hard to talk about.
If there are conflicts in the family that have existed for many years, all members of the family may be keen to resolve them before the end comes, and this is another example of how talking to a professional may be the catalyst for welcome conversations. There may also be the issue of financial concerns that are causing upset and anxiety for the person and their loved ones; for instance, a spouse worrying that they may have to leave their home after their partner’s passing. Ensuring that financial arrangements are in order before the palliative pathway reaches its conclusion will also mean that a source of potential concern and conflict will be dealt with. Speaking to a financial adviser or solicitor to finalise wills and other arrangements means you can forget about such time-consuming aspects and focus on spending quality time together.

Enhancing Patient Comfort and Functioning

People are living longer with cancer and enjoying a better quality of life throughout their palliative pathway, thanks to advances in available treatments and better understanding of whole-person approaches to care. The NHS tells us that “Receiving care that is tailored to a person’s needs can have a significant impact on their experience and quality of life” and their long-term plan sets out how future care can be enhanced as society develops. One of the ways that care provision is being improved for patient care is ensuring that primary and community care are moulded into one extended service, so that whether a person attends day services in a hospice, regular hospital appointments and occasional stays, or they are being cared for solely at home the experience will be the same. By focusing on the whole-person, holistic approach to palliative care for cancer patients, the opportunities exist for more people to remain in the home they love to receive their palliative care, rather than having to be in hospital or move to a nursing home.
Being comfortable involves more than the physical, although it is important to make sure that physical needs are being met too. By ensuring that the person remains safe and comfortable in surroundings that they are familiar with, their wellbeing will be enhanced for the entirety of their palliative journey. Ensuring that their loved one receives all of the care they need while on their palliative journey is a concern for family members too but having specially trained carers coming into the home or living-in means reassurance for everyone involved.

Challenges and Opportunities in Delivering Palliative Care for Cancer Patients

Receiving a diagnosis of cancer can be hugely distressing, yet knowing that their needs will be fully taken care of, with a focus on personal preference, can give some reassurance to both the person and their loved ones. Previously, we would accept medical personnel’s recommendations for our care and treatment plan without question, yet nowadays medical and healthcare staff will work closely with a cancer patient and the people close to them to ensure that their own ideas and preferences for their care are implemented. This could include trialling alternative therapies and treatments, and being able to remain in their own home for the entirety of their palliative care journey, rather than having to spend extended periods of time in hospital or a care home. Opportunities exist for extending the way that we deliver person-centred care, and the NHS tells us that part of its long-term strategy is to offer more differentiated support to individuals. It believes this is necessary to enable the health service to fully recognise how individual’s want their palliative and end of life care to proceed, and fundamentally make sure that people get to “take more control of how they manage their physical and mental wellbeing.” Challenges and opportunities exist in palliative and wider service delivery, and the NHS recognises that “one-size-fits-all statutory services have often failed to engage with the people most in need, leading to inequalities in access and outcome.”
By working closely together, private home care companies such as Helping Hands stand at the forefront of cancer palliative care delivery, working with the wider healthcare team to support individuals to remain in the homes they love for their palliative care and support, right through to the end of their lives. Because our specialist palliative care services offer the opportunity for people to remain in the home they love for as long as possible, we really are the people to trust with either your or your loved ones’ care. Depending on your requirements and your care and support needs, palliative care at home can include:

  • Support with pain management
  • Personal care – assisting with bathing, dressing and toileting
  • Continence care – changing continence pads, stoma management or catheter care
  • Medication support – including complex prescriptions
  • Mobility support – including hoisting if necessary
  • Housekeeping duties – including vacuuming, dusting, changing beds and laundry
  • Meal preparation and nutrition support
  • Companionship and supporting you to remain as independent as possible
  • Accompanying you outside of the home to appointments and community events

To discover more about our exceptional standards of palliative care delivery for customers living with cancer, talk to our friendly and knowledgeable customer care team, or visit your local branch and discover what is available in your area. You can find your closest branch here.