Vancouver & Burnaby (Change Location)
Palliative Care for Seniors: The Final Journey at Home
Losing a senior loved one is never easy. Losing them to a debilitating life-threatening ailment can be even more stressful, especially where medical treatment is unsuccessful, and the future becomes even more uncertain. In many such situations, Palliative Care often becomes the course of action. While it has gained awareness as a concept in the last few years, the decision to have a loved one placed in palliative care can be a life changing decision for the loved one as well as their family.
Palliative care typically refers to care for someone who is not fit for or has gone through all possible medical treatments that should improve the course of illness. Although it can include end of life care, palliative care is broader and can last for longer. Having palliative care doesn't necessarily mean that one is likely to die soon – some people have palliative care for years.
With familiarity of palliative care growing and the comfort of the individual and the family being paramount, home-based palliative care is becoming the preferred choice for many families.
A 2018 survey by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) found:
- 75% of Canadians would prefer to die at home.
- Only about 15% have access to palliative care services at home.
- Recipients of home palliative care services are 2.5 times more likely to die at home, as early access to such care significantly reduced ER visits and ICU stays at the end of life.
While palliative care is not exclusive to seniors, it is clear that seniors are the majority of the population needing such support.
The palliative care plan for a senior is developed by a multidisciplinary team of healthcare workers, with the key objectives of managing pain and other symptoms, supporting activities of daily living, and providing psychological, emotional, spiritual support to the senior and their family. The care plan is further refined over time according to the progression of the senior’s condition and the family’s wishes.
As can be expected, palliative care at home while effective and desirable, can place an enormous strain on a family’s ability to effectively manage the various aspects of such an involved process. In a 2013 survey of over 3,000 Canadian adults, nearly two-thirds of the respondents indicated that they would likely not be able to handle such responsibility. The major impediments being work commitments, family obligations, not being local, and even their own illness or health concerns.
In such situations, engaging a professional caregiving service to provide palliative care, assist the senior and reduce the stress on the family can be the right path to take. Caregivers trained in palliative care can help take over the duties from the family and provide quality assistance to the senior loved one. This can bring enormous relief to family members in what is already a difficult phase, without having to deal with the additional stress of being caregivers.
Home Instead has supported many clients and their families in navigating the complex journey of palliative care at home. Trained managers carefully supervise care plan execution, keeping focus on making refinements as needed and incorporating best practices gathered from serving other clients in similar situations. Skilled and empathetic caregivers become a part of the family, carrying out daily tasks and implementing holistic care plans intended to enhance comfort and prolong the life of the senior loved one. They help bridge the gap in the emotional states of the family and the senior and help them understand each other better.
Some benefits our professional caregivers offer in palliative care include:
- Assisting the senior with compassion and patience in their activities of daily living (ADLs) such bathing, toileting, grooming, mobility support feeding etc.
- Effective companionship and social engagement to create a healthy mental state
- Managing appointments and health updates on behalf of the senior
- Tracking progression of the senior’s health and reporting changes
- Emotional and spiritual support to the senior and family members