A Person-Centred Approach in Palliative Care

Around 80% of Australians who die in any given year are over 65 (source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare). It’s expected then that more and more people will require aged and palliative care due to the ageing and increasing population.

End of life is inevitable and it’s one of the sure important things we need to prepare for and consider. Aside from the emotional preparation, we also have to consider the costs and the quality of care the patient will receive in a healthcare setting. Although in palliative care there’s little or no prospect of a cure, we can still focus on improving the experience.

A person-centred approach in palliative care

To ensure a positive and comforting experience, the approach should always be person-centred. After all, the focus is not on the cure but on how to make the transition somehow comfortable and less painful both for the patients and their friends and family members. There will always be some forms of suffering but some of them are unnecessary. In the healthcare industry, what we could do then is to identify the unnecessary suffering and remove them from the scene.

For example, people who receive palliative care often have severe limitations on mobility. Whether it’s due to cancer, dementia or a cardiovascular disease, limited mobility forces people to stay on a bed or chair for almost the entire day. This is uncomfortable in itself and limits the experiences people can enjoy as well.

It’s unnecessary suffering if the hospital chairs and beds don’t provide enough comfort. It’s far from being a person-centred approach because the patient is nowhere in the equation. To help ensure a positive and comforting experience, it’s useful to think about what the patient experiences day to day and almost every hour.

Aside from physical comfort, it’s also important to think about the patients’ emotional, psychological, social and spiritual needs. We have to take a holistic and integrated approach in providing healthcare. Thinking in a single dimension is now over because this is not enough to provide true care. But with a holistic and multi-dimensional approach (in a sensitive manner and according to the needs and preferences of the patients), healthcare facilities can provide care in a better and higher level.

The key here is to map out the daily experiences of each patient. Keep in mind that the focus now isn’t on recovery anymore. The focus is on the experience and transition. Although end of life is inevitable, most types of suffering are still unavoidable. A person-centred approach focuses on that not just for better outcomes, but for gaining a more humane experience.

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