Palliative care aims to improve the quality of life of patients and their families facing problems associated with life-limiting illness. This is achieved through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification, assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, including physical, psychosocial and spiritual.1
It is not possible to rely exclusively on expert palliative care services to address the growing palliative care needs of people who have life-limiting conditions. A palliative care approach can be actioned by any healthcare professional to meet the needs of people with chronic life-limiting conditions by using palliative care knowledge and expertise.2 The role of general practitioners (GPs) and general practices is central and critical to an effective, comprehensive palliative care approach.
A palliative care approach recognises that death is inevitable, and focuses on the care rather than cure of a person with multiple chronic conditions (refer to Part A. Multimorbidity), frailty (refer to Part A. Frailty) and/or a life-threatening or life-limiting illness. The goal of a palliative approach is to improve or optimise a person’s level of comfort and function, and to offer appropriate treatment for any distressing symptoms.
A palliative approach addresses a person’s psychological, spiritual, social, emotional and cultural needs. Families are welcomed as partners in this approach. A palliative approach recognises that for older people with multiple chronic conditions, frailty and/or a life-threatening or life-limiting illness, this is often the last chapter of their life, the length of which can be unknown.3 Figure 1 illustrates the relationship between a palliative care approach, end-of-life care and specialist palliative care.
Relationship between a palliative care approach, end-of-life care and specialist palliative care
Part B. Palliative care approach highlights the essential components of providing healthcare to older people in both residential aged care facilities (RACFs) and those in the community, while complementing Part A. Palliative and end-of-life care, which focuses on assisting in clinical decision making.