Understanding Palliative Nursing

September 22, 2016
Palliative Health Care

Palliative Health Care

Palliative nursing is a difficult part of health care that involves taking care of people who are suffering from incurable illnesses, to ensure that those people are kept as comfortable as possible. With palliative care, the nurses work to support a person – who may be ending their life – with psychological, spiritual and social support, as well as support to maintain their dignity and reduce their pain.

Organisations such as Spectrum Health Care offer palliative nursing services in a patient’s own home so that they can enjoy familiar and comfortable surroundings, making life better for them even if they are suffering from some very serious illnesses.

Many people associate palliative treatments with the end of life care, but palliative care doesn’t have to be for terminally ill people. Sometimes such treatments are used alongside curative treatments. In the strictest definition, giving someone drugs to treat nausea during chemotherapy, or giving someone morphine when they have a broken leg is palliative – because those treatments just work on the symptoms, rather than actually curing the condition.

Palliative care is very important, because it can help a person to feel better, and often being in a positive frame of mind helps to promote a better sense of wellbeing, and to give the patient a better long-term prognosis, especially in the case of serious illnesses that are unlikely to be fatal. Even in the case of fatal illnesses, making sure that a person enjoys their final days and is able to send some quality time with their loved ones is an important thing.

Spectrum Health Care, and other similar organisations, offer in-home nursing for people with a range of conditions, including cancer patients, Alzheimer’s sufferers, and seniors who are suffering from other debilitating conditions. The nursing services include not just drugs, dressing changes and other basics, but also drivers, live-in companions, cleaning services, overnight assistance and more – so a person who is ill can get the support they need to retain some independence. This is an important thing for many who already feel that simply by being ill they are ‘less’ in some way. No-one should feel like that when they are going through a difficult time in their life.

Palliative nursing must be delivered compassionately and consistently, in line with the wishes of the person who is ill. Sometimes, there are compromises to be made – would a person rather take painkillers that might affect their clarity of thought, of that could be risky in terms of the ‘double effect’ of respiratory depression (something that is hotly debated by healthcare professionals)? It can be hard to find safe doses and appropriate drugs that offer sufficient pain relief while also being safe for a patient to take in such high doses.

Palliative nursing is a challenging job, but if you have loved ones that need it, know that there are services out there that take pride in taking good care of people who are seriously ill, and who need support.