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The Importance of Palliative Care
March 7th, 2019

Palliative care can be difficult to discuss. Making arrangements for end-of-life care can naturally result in some strong, conflicting emotions, as it requires people with terminal illnesses, as well as their family caregivers, to confront some difficult realities in order to maximize quality of life. At Integracare, we understand the nuances involved with these discussions, but we also know how important palliative care can be to families dealing with a serious illness.

A recent CBC article found that most Ontarians would prefer to die at home, but that many (nearly 70%) pass away in hospitals. Hospitals can be stressful, foreign environments, and many feel that they or their loved ones don’t receive the personalized care and attention they need while at the hospital. Serious illnesses can cause enough stress as is, and hospitalization may only serve to compound that anxiety.

Receiving professional palliative care in the comfort of one’s own home can improve the quality of life of a person with a terminal illness in a broad, multifaceted way. Here, we will discuss the benefits of palliative care by detailing a few of its primary functions: its practical advantages, its emotional and social benefits, and its role in symptom management. As you will see, these functions easily coalesce to create a better quality of life for people with serious illnesses.

For any information not covered in this post, be sure to learn about our in-home palliative care services either through our website of by calling our Toronto or Mississauga number.


Defining Palliative Care: What It Means

Working as part of a team of medical professionals and caregivers, a palliative care professional focuses on a Client’s quality of life, helping them manage symptoms, take care of daily tasks and activities, and work through the myriad of new, often draining emotions that come along with a serious illness diagnosis. This focus on a Client’s quality of life can also make primary treatment easier.

Palliative care also aims to provide relief to family members, especially family caregivers, through what is often a stressful and painful time. The professional care and attention that home health care experts in Toronto and Mississauga provide for Clients can greatly reduce the burden family members feel. It can be deeply reassuring knowing that your loved one is being cared for properly in the wake of a life-limiting illness diagnosis.

If possible, it is best to begin palliative care early. According to research drawn from a recent clinical trial, patients who receive earlier palliative care enjoy a better quality of life, although beginning care at any time is preferable to no care.

The way palliative care goes about improving quality of life is by attending to concerns surrounding – but not always addressed by – primary care. These include practical concerns, emotional and social support, and symptom management.


Addressing Practical Concerns

Primary care for a serious illness can be draining. But if you add onto that the countless, everyday practical concerns that someone must face, it can be too much to handle. Palliative care professionals help with daily tasks and responsibilities in order to unload some of the burden. Take transportation, for instance. Instead of a Client having to worry about arranging their transportation to and from appointments, palliative care professionals like Integracare Caregivers and Nursing Coordinators can coordinate with other health care professionals to manage this aspect of care to either reduce transportation requirements or at minimum reduce the required efforts to coordinate transportation.

Palliative care professionals also aid in managing medications, ensuring that the Client receives their necessary medications in the correct dosage and at the correct times. This can be especially useful for Clients suffering Dementia or Alzheimer’s, who may have difficulty remembering the finer details of their medication regimen, or for those Clients with complicated medication schedules.

Activity is another practical concern that a palliative care professional may address. Integrating other professional disciplines like physiotherapy, a palliative caregiver can boost quality of life by encouraging a healthy amount of activity. Alternatively, the caregiver might simply help with daily activities around the house – chores, cleaning, setting up appointments, sorting out finances, etc.



Emotional and Social Support

A serious illness diagnosis can engender a lot of unfamiliar emotions, both for the recipient of the diagnosis, and their family. It can be frightening, sad, infuriating, and even embarrassing. That said, early palliative care works as an effective form of intervention to help families process these emotions, receive education and develop useful coping strategies.

You can draw a direct line between this multidisciplinary intervention and quality of life, and studies – like this one, from the New England Journal of Medicine – proving that early palliative care can make a very positive difference not just for the Client, but for the Family as well.

Family caregivers who attempt to be the sole caregiver for a loved one may risk neglecting self-care. Recent research from John Hopkins found that family caregivers spend more than eight hours a day providing care for their ill family member, which can have a consequential emotional and physical toll. Stress and anxiety are as much a risk for family members as they are for patients; in this way, it is helpful to consider palliative care as advantageous to the entire family.

The palliative care we offer at Integracare also focuses on health care advocacy. Our care professionals will work with primary health care providers to advocate and communicate on a Client’s behalf. We listen to the needs, pains and worries of our Clients and use that as actionable information in the quest to improve their quality of life.  


Managing the Symptoms of a Serious Illness

Primary care focuses on being curative, whereas palliative care can help manage symptoms. After all, “palliate”, as a verb, literally means “to make (a disease or its symptoms) less severe or unpleasant without removing the cause”. Oftentimes, serious illnesses are accompanied by painful symptoms, which if left under-attended can negatively affect quality of life. The reduction or relief of symptoms, therefore, is a large part of what palliative care strives to provide. 

Alongside palliative care, as part of a holistic package, Clients might also receive massage therapy. Effective at reducing pain and tension, massage therapy can help mitigate the symptoms of a serious illness. The RMT takes the Client’s health and requirements into consideration to create a personalized therapy, often with lighter strokes and softer techniques. This can be such a meaningful experience for someone with chronic pain associated with a serious illness, an experience that, unfortunately, many hospitals are unable to provide. Integracare’s Massage Therapy Services can be provided in the comfort of your loved one’s home by a Registered Massage Therapist.


Integracare Palliative Care Services

We encourage any people or families dealing with a serious illness diagnosis to give us a call anytime and discuss palliative care options. Our palliative care services employ professional, compassionate, hardworking people to treat the physical, emotional, and psychological symptoms of a life-threatening illness, as well as the side effects of primary treatment.

If you are unsure whether palliative care is right for you or your loved one, we’re here to talk. In the “Palliative Care” section of our Services (which you can find on our main page), we list certain illnesses that will benefit from palliative care, but beyond that, palliative care is for anyone concerned about quality of life during the treatment of a serious illness.

A quick search online into the effectiveness of palliative care will lead you to numerous articles about its positive effect on quality of life, both for Clients and their loved ones. Although it’s difficult to discuss, it can make all the difference in the life of someone with a serious illness.

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