Palliative care consists of active, comprehensive assistance for terminal patients, when their condition no longer responds to treatment, and management of pain and symptoms.
Palliative care is interdisciplinary in nature, engaging patients, their families and the wider community. In this sense, palliative care is a reference back to the most primitive, fundamental concept of care: seeing to the needs and requirements of patients wherever they are or wherever they have chosen to be looked after, be it at home or in hospital.
Palliative care aims to manage pain and all the other symptoms that may or may not be evident in a patient suffering from a chronic, progressive disease that no longer responds to clinical treatment.
This type of care also seeks to help patients and their families deal with psychological, emotional, social and spiritual difficulties, so as to improve their quality of life.
Palliative care requires the intervention of a number of different professional figures: doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, social workers and psychologists. This care can be provided in the home if the patient prefers, and the family, with adequate support, can become an integral part of the patient’s care.
High-level integrated home care and palliative home care for terminally ill patients. This kind of care consists of professional intervention for patients with highly complex needs, as a result of specific critical situations:
- terminal patients (suffering from cancer or other diseases);
- patients in the advanced stages of degenerative/progressive neurological diseases (ALS, muscular dystrophy);
- advanced and complicated stages of chronic diseases;
- patients requiring artificial parenteral nutrition;
- patients requiring invasive ventilator support;
- patients in a vegetative or minimally conscious state.
A combination of the above is identified to create a specific palliative care profile, which requires the intervention of a dedicated team that includes the patient’s GP.
How critical and how intense the care needs to be is determined by factors that include clinical instability, the presence of difficult-to-control symptoms and the need for particular support for the family or caregiver.
The basic conditions remain a multi-dimensional assessment, the acceptance of the patient and the identification of a care plan, comprising multi-disciplinary types of intervention.
The type of care required is requested by the doctor responsible for the patient.
This intervention is scheduled over 7 days a week, and for palliative care, medical assistance is available round the clock, generally provided by the care team, or in any case by doctors with specific training.