Palliative Care... What is it really?
Often, a palliative care ward is imagined as a hospice or somewhere that people go to die. The reality is quite different. The palliative approach is about supporting the whole person; treating more than just a diagnosis.
Quite often, the first time since diagnosis, patients are treated as a whole person as their care teams expand to include social workers, psychologists, complementary health services and more.
I remember one lady was devastated at this referral. She had a history of cancer and found there were metastases on her rib and pelvis. Metastatic cancer is often considered an incurable disease, so patients may be referred directly to the service. She was distressed at this news and I think simply to calm her down the social worker brought her up to the ward for a massage as I happened to be there that day.
What she did come to appreciate over time was that she could receive many other support services that underpinned her ability to live well.
We also had deep conversations over the next couple of years about her own self-care as she came to embrace and expand her own practices to include counselling, meditation, exercise and of course massage.
She was eventually removed from the palliative care list but not because she passed away. Her disease was not progressing and I found this to be surprisingly common. Although this was many years ago when I saw her last her health was very stable and she was still living well in the community. Reference Engel, G. L. (1977). The need for a new medical model: a challenge for biomedicine. Science, 196(4286), 129-136.