Palliative Care in NZ: what do you need to know?
No matter who we are, or where our journey in life takes us, we will all eventually face the end.
If someone close to you is diagnosed with a life-limiting medical condition, palliative care provides dignified and caring assistance as their needs change.
Palliative care seeks to maintain the quality of life for people with a life-limiting illness. It's about your loved one living in a way that is meaningful to them, working within the boundaries of their condition.
Geneva Healthcare offers this essential service, with personalised options for your loved ones in the comfort of their own home.
What is palliative care?
Palliative care is a critical part of our healthcare system in New Zealand, offering support and care for people with life-limiting illnesses, and their families and whānau.
The need for palliative care will grow as our population gets older, so New Zealanders need to understand what it involves and see the benefits to themselves and their loved ones.
Palliative care is provided most often by a team, which will depend on the setting and level of care required. This care team may incorporate family members, doctors, nurses, community carers, social workers and psychologists.
Palliative care also helps your loved one, and those close to them, to clarify and best fulfil their needs, expectations, hopes and address any fears and concerns. Palliative care can be provided in the community, in hospitals or hospices. It ensures that people are living in comfort, feeling at peace and without distress.
At Geneva Healthcare, our palliative care service aims to:
- Optimise each person’s quality of life until their last day, by meeting their physical, spiritual, cultural and psychosocial needs
- Provide expert support for the person’s family, whānau and other caregivers (where needed) through the phases of caring and bereavement
When can palliative care begin?
The diagnosis and treatment of a life-limiting medical condition can be physically, emotionally and mentally draining. Palliative care is therefore helpful at any stage of the illness, and not just at the end of life.
In other words, it's not just for when someone is dying. It is quite common for some people to not access palliative care sooner, or at all. Because they fear that it means they've given up and are going to pass away soon. This is far from the case for many who embrace this type of care early.
Here are the facts:
Palliative care can start as soon as a diagnosis of a life-limiting condition is made.
It may be especially helpful if your loved one is suffering from pain, stress or other symptoms that affect their quality of life.
Palliative care aims to help your loved one and those around them manage their needs, expectations, hopes and fears.
Making sure that people are living comfortably, without distress, is just as important as ensuring a comfortable death.
Who's involved in palliative care?
- Palliative care nurses offer general care, to help your loved one manage their pain and other symptoms. They will often act as the main point of contact between your loved one and the rest of their care team
- Social workers provide community support to your loved ones, helping to connect them with local services and resources
- Pain specialists are experts at finding out what is causing pain and treating it effectively
- Dietitians can help with any food-related issues, like loss of appetite or nausea. They can also develop individual eating plans, catering specifically to your loved one's needs and preferences
- Physiotherapists – help to maintain and improve strength, and range of movement
- Occupational therapists – focus on helping your loved one to complete daily activities and tasks
- Grief and bereavement counsellors – will help to support and guide families and whānau experiencing grief and loss
Rather than simply treating a condition, the palliative care approach focuses on meeting the needs of the whole person.
Our Palliative care services include:
- An explanation of your loved one's illness, treatments and medications directly to them and their caregiver
- Pain treatment to relieve any suffering and help to improve their quality of life
- Support with personal care tasks (eating, showering, etc.)
- Expert advice on self-care options, such as exercise, relaxation and healthy eating
- Guidance on ways for your loved one to receive support and network with others
- Help with decision-making
- Assistance with advanced care planning, so that your loved one can make active and informed decisions about how they'd prefer to spend their final days and their death
Note: Advance care planning is a way to communicate to others how you'd like to be cared for if you become unwell, or if you become unable to make decisions for yourself. If you're receiving palliative care, it's really helpful to have your wishes written down so that your family, friends and healthcare providers know what's important to you. You don't need a lawyer to make your advance care plan, but it's wisest to let your family know what's in it, and where to find it. Your palliative care team can offer assistance when writing your advance care plan.
Practical examples of our palliative care in action
Serious illness affects much more than just the body. It reaches all areas of a person's life, as well as the lives of their whānau and family members. Our Palliative care team is there to support your loved one in all aspects and work around what is best for them.
Below are some examples of palliative care practice that can help you or your loved ones in your time of need:
- Personal care – washing, bathing, toileting help, dressing and transferring.
- Convalescent care and rehabilitation – caring, personal support with wound care, pain management, exercising and motivation.
- Home help – keeping the routines going at home, anything from washing and vacuuming to gardening.
- Companionship – looking after your loved one’s personal well-being, and lending an ear to listen when required. Patients and their families can face stress during illness, that may lead to fear, anxiety, hopelessness, or depression. Family members may also take on caregiving, even if they also have jobs and other duties. Options for their support include respite care, counselling, support groups, family meetings, referrals to mental health providers and suggestions for spiritual help.
- Transportation – help with major travel plans, either domestically or overseas, where your loved one may require support with any medical issues that arise.
- Physical problems – symptoms or side effects such as pain, trouble sleeping, loss of appetite, shortness of breath and feeling sick to the stomach. Treatments may include medications, nutritional guidance, physical therapy, occupational therapy and integrative therapies.
- Practical challenges – some problems brought on by illness are practical, such as money- or job-related problems, insurance questions, and legal issues. Our palliative care team will be able to explain complex medical forms, help families understand treatment options, provide or refer families to financial counselling, and help connect you to community resources for housing or transportation.
- Spiritual issues - When people are confronted by illness, they may seek deeper meaning or question their faith. Our palliative care team can help patients and families explore their beliefs and values so they can move toward acceptance and peace.
- Respite care and carer support are also an important part of palliative care, ensuring that family members do not become overwhelmed or exhausted. Some care types may even be funded, to reduce the cost to you.
Where to from here? Call us first.
It can be hard for our loved ones to ask for help in their own home. Thus, our goal is to provide exactly the help they need, without encroaching on their personal space.
A comprehensive care plan is provided, with your loved one at the centre of our tailored experience. Feel free to talk to our carer at any stage about their support, and if there are any changes your loved one would like. The flexibility of our service means absolute peace of mind.
Live well, and continue to enjoy living independently in your own home with personalised care and support from Geneva Healthcare.
We can support you with Palliative Care.