Palliative care

What is Palliative Care?

Palliative care is an approach that improves the quality of life of patients facing problems associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment, treatment of pain, and holistic treatment of other problems including the physical, psychosocial and spiritual. A key component of Palliative care is the support of families and caregivers.

Palliative Care:

  • Provides relief from pain and other distressing symptoms
  • Affirms life and regards dying as a normal process
  • Intends neither to hasten or postpone death
  • Integrates the psychological and spiritual aspects of patient care
  • Offers a support system to help patients live as actively as possible until death
  • Offers a support system to help the family cope during the patients illness and in their own bereavement
  • Uses a team approach to address the needs of patients and their families, including bereavement counselling, if indicated
  • Will enhance quality of life, and may also positively influence the course of illness
  • Is applicable early in the course of illness, in conjunction with other therapies that are intended to prolong life, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, and includes those investigations needed to better understand and manage distressing clinical complications

Definition of Palliative Care for Children
Palliative care for children (Paediatric palliative care)represents a special, albeit closely related field to adult palliative care. It is a method for delivering competent, compassionate and consistent care to children with chronic, complex and/or life threatening conditions and their families.

Paediatric Palliative Care does not aim to cure disease, but to prevent suffering and improve quality of life for Kenya’s youngest terminally ill patients, aged 0-16. Paediatric Palliative Care can be delivered at home, in a hospice, or a hospital, and focuses on treating pain and other physical symptoms, providing psychosocial support, and complementary care and treatment to children suffering life limiting illnesses and their families and carers.

World Health Organization’s (WHO) definition of palliative care appropriate for children and their families is as follows:

  • Palliative care for children is the active total care of the child’s body, mind and spirit, and also involves giving support to the family.
  • It begins when illness is diagnosed, and continues regardless of whether or not a child receives treatment directed at the disease.
  • Health providers must evaluate and alleviate a child’s physical, psychological, and social distress.
  • Effective palliative care requires a broad multidisciplinary approach that includes the family and makes use of available community resources; it can be successfully implemented even if resources are limited.
  • It can be provided in tertiary care facilities, in community health centres and even in children’s homes.