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4 Benefits of Palliative Care Nursing to Enhance a Loved One’s Quality of Life

a relative holding a loved one’s hands – palliative nurse]

People often mistake palliative care for hospice care. Although both are types of senior care for those with terminal illnesses, palliative care differs as adequate support may help your senior mom or dad recover. They can reclaim their life and health with the right support from the palliative care nurses. Learn more about palliative care nursing, its benefits, and how it’s distinct from hospice care.

Understanding Palliative Care Nursing

People living with serious illnesses and are fully dependent on the caregiver or family for care can benefit from palliative nursing. It may improve their health in many ways.

Defining Palliative Care

Palliative care is the type of care given to individuals with severe health conditions like advanced cancer, dementia, and heart failure. Its goal is to relieve pain caused by the symptoms and the emotional distress caused by the disease that can further lead to health decline.

Palliative care takes a holistic approach, meaning supportive care considers the patient’s overall well-being — not just the symptoms or the disease. It can include their mental health, emotional welfare, diet, and other related health aspects.

The Role of Palliative Nurses in Senior Care

Like how caregivers pursue a specialization, palliative nurses are care experts in supporting seniors living with severe diseases.

For instance, if a loved one is in the last stage of cancer, palliative nurses help manage pain associated with symptoms, offer emotional support, and enhance their general well-being. The end phase of any disease is often the most painful. It’s the point where their health deteriorates at a rapid rate.

However, choosing palliative care doesn’t always mean it’s hopeless. In fact, with the help of palliative care nurses, many can improve their quality of life and even recover from their ailments to go back to living their lives. These nurses collaborate with the rest of the care team to ensure your loved one receives personalized, compassionate care that promotes comfort during the most challenging times.

Palliative Care vs. Hospice Care: Understanding the Differences

Palliative and hospice care are crucial medical services that aim to improve the quality of life for patients facing serious illnesses. However, the two have significant differences, which are worth understanding.

Patients with severe illnesses like cancer and dementia can both benefit from palliative care and hospice care. Although people often use the term interchangeably, these two senior care options differ.

  • Eligibility: Palliative care benefits anyone with a terminal health illness, regardless of their life expectancy. The patient can still recover and be cured of their disease. Meanwhile, hospice care is provided to individuals with six months or less to live and who are beyond treatment.
  • Timing and goals: Your loved one can receive palliative care at any stage of a chronic disease. The central focus of the treatment is to reduce pain, manage symptoms, and elevate the quality of life while they’re on treatment. Hospice care is the opposite as it’s provided to patients in the final stages of their lives to make the few months they’re alive as comfortable as possible. Families are also supported and receive counseling to overcome grief.
  • Location: Nursing homes, hospitals, and patients’ homes are the typical locations for provisioning palliative care. On the other hand, since hospice is all about comfort, the familiarity of the patient’s home is the preferred location for care, but nursing facilities and hospice care are also options.
  • Duration: The patient can receive palliative care for as long as necessary to improve their well-being. But it also depends on how the disease progresses after enrolling. Some patients may see a drastic decline in their health for only a few days, shortening the need for palliative care.

But others diagnosed with life-threatening ailments, like cancer or dementia, may live for years, extending the demand for palliative care. The duration of hospice is somewhat fixed. After the doctor gives a prognosis by assessing the trajectory of the disease, the timeframe for hospice is expected to be six months or less.

  • Services provided: The healthcare team providing palliative offers a range of care services to ease pain and support treatment decisions. Hospice, in contrast, focuses more on end-of-life care and supporting the family after the patient passes away.

Understanding the differences between palliative care and hospice care is crucial so you know what, when, and how to get the appropriate support and care that suits your loved one’s needs depending on the severity of their illness.

Palliative Care Nursing: A Holistic Approach to Senior Care

To ensure the patient improves their overall condition, palliative care takes a holistic approach to senior care. The care team provides for the needs of your aging mom or dad, varying from physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. The incharge care providers will mainly provide support to manage the symptoms, alleviate pain, and enhance their quality of life until they recover or reach the end of their lives.

The Benefits of Palliative Care Nursing

A doctor visiting an ill senior at home – palliative care nursing]

As palliative care considers all domains of health, the following includes a myriad of ways it can benefit your loved one.

1. Enhance Physical Comfort and Symptom Management

The care team will develop and implement treatment plans tailored to your loved one’s needs to reduce the discomfort caused by the illness. Palliative care can include assistance with daily activities, nutrition, medication management, and emotional support.

2. Addressing the Emotional and Psychological Needs of Seniors

Getting diagnosed with a life-threatening illness can impact mental health. Palliative care providers will work with your family to address the emotional and mental health needs of your loved one. Psychotherapy can enhance the patient’s quality of life and help reduce the cognitive or behavioral symptoms your loved one experiences.

3. Facilitating Decision-Making and Advance Care Planning

With a reliable palliative care team to rely on, your family can better prepare for the future. They can help facilitate sound decision-making and help your family navigate the difficult situation through advanced care planning that details your next steps. Doing this alone and without an expert’s help can be challenging.

4. Supporting Seniors and Their Families throughout the Journey

Depend on your care team to be with you every step of the journey. Not only is palliative care valuable to patients, but the nurses and other care team members also assist families in the form of emotional support, counseling, and other valuable interventions.

Palliative Care Nursing Education and Skill Development

A group of palliative nurses attending a conference]

Palliative care nurses are professionals with expertise in aiding patients and families go through challenging situations. They possess the essential skills and training needed to be a pillar of support for your family.

Required Qualifications and Training for Palliative Nurses

Anyone who desires to be a palliative nurse must undergo specialized training and complete specific qualifications. Finishing a nursing degree and securing a license are the first steps.

Then, a licensed nurse must take the Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse (CHPN) certification offered by the Hospice and Palliative Credentialing Center (HPCC). The Specialty Palliative Care Certification by the Center to Advance Palliative Care is also an option. The training will focus on providing relief to painful symptoms and supporting families.

Continuing Education and Professional Development Opportunities

Ongoing education is necessary for palliative nurses to stay updated with the latest evidence-based practices in the palliative care sector. They must attend workshops, conferences, and seminars to expand their expertise and knowledge to improve patient care and outcomes and adequately support the family.

The Importance of Interdisciplinary Collaboration in Palliative Care Nursing

The care team ensures the patient receives comprehensive and holistic care. They collaborate with your primary physician and other expert care providers, therapists, pharmacists, social workers, and chaplains.

Functioning as a single care unit by combining the expertise of each care professional will allow for better communication, care coordination, and provision of care continuity, leading to better patient outcomes.

Promoting Evidence-Based Practice in Palliative Care

With their ongoing pursuit of skills development and learning, palliative nurses can stay updated with the modern interventions researchers have developed and apply them to their practice.

Resources and Support for Palliative Care Nurses

Two palliative nurses learning how to use technology at work.]

If you or someone you know works as a palliative nurse, these resources will help them improve at their job.

National Associations and Organizations for Palliative Care Nursing

There are several resources available for palliative nurses. A few of them are:

  1. American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine: This platform comprises professionals specializing in palliative and hospice care. Here, you can network, connect, and share ideas with other experts in the field.
  2. Caring Connections: It’s a program by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) that provides free resources to help people make decisions relating to palliative and end-of-life care and services.
  3. Center to Advance Palliative Care: It offers resources to hospitals and other healthcare settings to further their knowledge and improve their palliative care programs.

Online Communities and Forums for Palliative Care Nurses

Online and local offline groups provide resources for palliative care professionals to connect, receive, share advice, and exchange information. Organizations mentioned above have either a support group or a forum. Either way, these platforms support sharing of care information. Check within your local area for resources about palliative care nursing.

Accessing Research, Guidelines, and Best Practices

If you work as a nurse in this field, you can also do your research and self-education. Many organizations that provide palliative nursing certifications also have ongoing programs where you can continue to upgrade your skills and knowledge.

Utilizing Technology and Innovations in Palliative Care Nursing

Technology helps palliative care nurses make their jobs easy without compromising the quality of care. By leveraging telehealth, using electronic health records and software to predict and manage symptoms and improve the patient’s health.

For example, virtual reality can be useful in therapy interventions. Medication reminder apps can enhance drug adherence. That’s why palliative care nurses must pursue ongoing education to get updates on the latest care solutions in palliative care.

The Role of Technology in Palliative Care Nursing

A palliative nurse checking patient data from a laptop.]

Like in the rest of industries, technology has penetrated healthcare and has been extremely valuable in supporting care providers.

Telehealth and Remote Care in Palliative Nursing

Virtual checkups and remote health monitoring allow patients to receive care wherever they are. These options remove the barriers to accessing care. When care is easily obtainable, your loved one can receive support anytime.

Accessing Online Resources and Educational Materials

Online published studies are excellent sources for the latest discoveries regarding treatment interventions and care. Technology makes access to these online materials more convenient, which can positively impact patient outcomes.

Electronic Health Records and Documentation in Palliative Care

Technology has also streamlined patient data storage, management, and documentation in a secure server. Information that can improve the patient’s health becomes readily available to healthcare providers.

Leveraging Technology for Improved Patient and Family Communication

Technology has helped the entire care team of physicians, nurses, social workers, care managers, and other professionals collaborate in treating the patient.

Collaborating with Other Healthcare Providers

A doctor and two palliative care nurses working discussing patient info.]

Interdisciplinary collaboration is crucial in delivering quality care that improves patient outcomes. Palliative nurses must work in harmony with other members of the care team.

Interprofessional Teamwork and Communication in Palliative Care

Excellent and effective communication allows for an efficient dissemination of patient information among the care team. Several cases have occurred where a misunderstanding or misinterpretation of patient data led to serious health consequences. The correct communication practices and interpersonal skills can support palliative nurses in sharing precise information.

Collaborating with Physicians, Specialists, and Allied Healthcare Professionals

They also must have active listening skills and be quick to share their insights or express their concerns about their observations of the patient. Additionally, critical thinking and problem-solving skills will be helpful when discussing the patient’s health with the rest of the care team.

Partnering with Social Workers and Case Managers

With the holistic care approach, palliative care nurses also work with social workers and case managers. Social workers provide psychological and social support while case managers coordinate access to all services and resources the patient needs. Working hand-in-hand can ensure high-quality and all-inclusive care.

Engaging with Volunteer and Support Organizations in the Community

Local volunteer and support organizations provide access to abundant care resources and materials, such as respite care, emotional support, and complementary therapies. Developing a collaborative relationship with these entities gives palliative care nurses a reliable source to tap on for help when the situation calls for it.

The Important Role of Palliative Care Nursing in Senior Care

A happy senior receiving palliative care nursing at home.]

Palliative care nursing allows seniors with terminal health conditions to receive optimum care, reduce their symptoms, and improve their quality of life despite having an illness. Palliative care nurses are professionals with specialized training and a job to take care of the emotional, physical, and other needs of your loved one while they’re at home or in a nursing care unit.

People must know the difference between palliative care and conventional senior care options, as it helps family members hire suitable care professionals to oversee their loved one’s needs.

At Amy’s Eden, we arrange for trained palliative care nurses in our homes or the homes oif our clients around Nevada to care for older people with serious health conditions. By nurturing a home-like environment and making the proper care accessible, your loved one will preserve their quality of life and potentially improve their health.

Get in touch with us to schedule a virtual tour of our homes or contact us today for in-home palliative care.

 

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