There is now a new definition of palliative care

There is now a new definition of palliative care – thanks Caroline Litster for pointing this one out. (Caroline is a researcher at Flinders University and a palliative and supportive services provider with ELDAC.)

Caroline shared this item from The Journal of Pain and Symptom Management (JPSM), reported in its May 6 issue.

It’s a document that should inspire confidence, since it was developed by The International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care, working with a panel of 38 world leaders in the field.

The article explains:

“PC (palliative care) initially and historically focused on alleviating the relief of suffering at the end of life.”

But it is now implemented much earlier than just at the end of life, even though this is the end goal.

It started in the area of cancer management but now covers all conditions.

Inevitably, as it has developed and expanded into earlier and earlier scenarios, this has led to debate about what it really is.

Day to day working experience tells those familiar with it, what it does –  making the end of life better, no matter when the start of that is defined, and acknowledging that the earlier you start the more control over symptoms you have.

Yet despite all the differences in ways of defining palliative care, the consensus project that led to the latest definition found “there seems to be a common understanding and discourse.”

Far more significant than debates about meanings among those already familiar with palliative care, is making sure it is understood by those outside the professional bubbles that work with it, that is, among the ordinary folk it is meant to support.

And – maybe surprisingly to some – making sure it is understood by those working outside the palliative care unit, but within other units in hospitals.

Other important points made in the JPSM article are:

  • The Lancet Commission on Global Access to Palliative Care and Pain Relief estimated that annually, more than 61 million people worldwide experience health conditions associated with suffering that could be significantly ameliorated through palliative care.
  • At least 80 per cent lack access to even the most basic palliative care interventions, such as pain medication.

“Serious health-related suffering” (SHS) is a term that popped up in the JPSM statement and it’s probably one that we’ll start to see more of from now on.

To see the article, go to:

We’re pleased to see palliative care being recognised for the differences it can make to everyday lives. For an Australian response to palliative care needs, go to:

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