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What does a palliative care worker do?

Supporting someone who is living with a serious health condition can present challenges every day, however, it is also an amazing opportunity to make a real difference and help the person to achieve as good a quality of life as possible in the home they love.

Palliative care is the journey that is begun after a life-limiting diagnosis, when the focus can be on holistic treatments and therapies that will ensure as pain-free an existence as possible. It’s also important that any spiritual needs and practical wants are respected and carried through, so the person is confident their wishes will be followed. By caring for someone on a palliative care journey, you know they won’t get any better, so it is important to have realistic expectations of how the future will unfold. However, it doesn’t mean there won’t still be time for them to plan and enjoy special occasions and family days out, and as a live-in or visiting carer you will be integral in making that happen for the person and their loved ones.

The five stages of palliative care

Palliative care encompasses every aspect of a person’s life to best support what they are going through. Palliative care is usually split into different stages, and understanding these stages can help you to support your customer to make the choices they want around their care. This is just one way we keep our customers at the centre of their care journey and always offer them person-centred care.

1. Creating a support plan

Helping Hands will work very closely with the customer’s multidisciplinary healthcare team to ensure that every aspect of their needs are met by us. We devise and create a personalised support plan that covers everything from their physical care needs, emotional support, and spiritual requirements. Our carers will be involved in accompanying their customer to medical appointments and day services, as well as ensuring their get to enjoy the hobbies and interests they always have. Plans will be made to cover not only the person’s current medical needs but also what the future may hold, including the expected progression of the illness. As a palliative carer, your customer may ask you to help their family understand the complex subject of what will happen as their condition progresses, such as their wishes for the end of their life, so you would need to be compassionate in your approach. Your manager and other members of the wider healthcare team will always be happy to support you in talking about such topics, and you should be proactive in asking for support when you need it.

2. Emotional preparation

Palliative care should always be approached holistically, meaning every aspect of a person’s needs are considered throughout their journey. It isn’t enough just to provide practical support, such as personal care, medication administration, and meal preparation; how a person is feeling also needs to be explored, as well as their spiritual beliefs and the circumstances they desire for the end of their life. This is because emotional wellbeing can directly affect physical wellbeing and should always be considered part of a person’s care plan, otherwise it can lead to unnecessary suffering. Helping Hands carers are always vigilant to their customer’s changing needs and report any concerns to their manager immediately as part of our comprehensive safeguarding policy. This could include changes to the customer’s emotional health as well as their physical, and we will work tirelessly with the wider healthcare team to ensure measures are put in place to improve the situation.

3. Care in the early stages

Keeping our customers as independent as possible is always the number one goal of every Helping Hands employee, and we will always do everything we can to make sure their life continues comfortably. Our carers and managers work closely with the wider healthcare team and will be integral to ensuring that the customer’s wishes are always followed. As well as helping to manage their medication, our carers and managers will be on hand to identify if there is a need for specialist equipment; for instance, liaising with community nurses to source an adjustable bed to assist their mobility. Visiting care may be the choice of many customers in the earlier stages of their palliative journey because they may also be receiving care from family members. They may still enjoy going out to activities and social functions and may appreciate their carer accompanying them there, as well as to medical appointments.

4. Care in the later stages

Plans will have been put in place to ensure that a customer’s end of life is as comfortable as possible, with pain being managed and every aspect of their holistic wellbeing taken care of. If they are remaining in their home, a customer may prefer to have live-in care so that someone is with them around the clock to take care of their needs. Although family members may still be heavily involved, having a full-time carer takes pressure off them and gives them an opportunity to reconnect with their daily life. It’s important for loved ones to have this opportunity to step away, both physically and emotionally, so that they can refresh their energy and address their emotional wellbeing too.

5. Support for family and other loved ones

Losing a loved one is devastating, and despite doing everything they can to prepare for it, when a person’s palliative journey finally ends, it is upsetting to everyone involved. Bereavement counselling can be offered by the wider healthcare team to help the family get through the next few months, and Helping Hands also offers their carers such consideration if they are struggling after the loss of a customer. Our carers are a constant comforting presence to family members as well as the customer themselves, and will help them prepare for what is to come in a professional and proactive manner.

Palliative care assistant job application

To be an excellent palliative carer, you must be compassionate, kind, and empathetic and have unlimited patience. There will be good days and challenges, yet knowing you will be helping to make life more comfortable for someone facing uncertainty will mean your role will hardly feel like work. You will need to let us see that you have the skills and personal qualities that mean you would be able to support a customer and their family through a period of uncertainty and worry and have the maturity and professionalism to cope when the end of your customer’s life is approaching. You may have years of experience or be new to care, but whatever your circumstances, we will give you practical skills and substantial learning opportunities so that you can always fully support your customer.