Life is precious. Everything we experience, all of the joy, all of the pain, is uniquely our experience. We try to share this experience with the world, bring perspective and light to the lives of others, to be with them in times of need, to revel in the experiences life has to offer together. Learning that you or a loved-one has a life-limiting illness is one of the hardest things you can go through in life; it brings those precious few moments into stark relief. You may have heard about palliative care, and want to learn more.

Palliative care is a multidisciplinary form of care provided for those with serious or life-limiting illnesses. The focus of palliative care is holistic; it does not seek to treat the illness, it seeks to make sure people can enjoy their lives to the fullest. Most hospital care is focused on doctors and nurses trying to treat the illness; while these may still be present in palliative care, the focus here is more tailored to what will make the patient happy. This may involve medication to soothe pain and anxiety, in order to help the patient relax their body.

The care is not limited to physical pain, however. Palliative care has the goal of treating all pain holistically; this means that palliative caregivers may include social workers, psychologists, grief counsellors, and other individuals trained in helping ease mental anguish. These individuals speak with the patient to learn how they might help ease the psychological or social pains that can come with life-limiting illness, which can help with the physical pain as well.

To many, spiritual care is as important as physical or mental care; this is why a palliative team will often include members of the patient’s religion, so the patient can discuss important spiritual matters with a trusted counsellor. This is key to a sense of well-being that ties in with the holistic take on treatment of palliative care.

Family is important as well, so a palliative care team will provide social workers, psychologists, spiritual advisors and other support for the family of the affected patient. This can drastically improve care; having family and friends as support is immeasurably helpful during the most trying times of our lives.

Life-limiting illnesses affect every person differently, and everyone has different strategies for coping with the pain that comes with such a diagnosis. This is why palliative care teams are eminently customizable; the staff that will take care of a patient during palliative care can include any number of different professionals trained in treating the specific physical, psychological, social and spiritual pains that might occur. Highly specialized home care professionals can play an important role in palliative care. Many patients who are receiving such care prefer to live in their own homes, so they can enjoy familiar surroundings and have friends and family over when they like. Home care professionals can help a patient eat, bathe and groom in the comfort of their own space; this can be invaluable in instilling a sense of well-being in a patient.