Can Palliative Care Be Done At Home: What You Need To Know

Palliative care at home

Introduction – Why Palliative Care?

After a diagnosis of a life-threatening disease, treating the condition aggressively is usually the first approach. However, this can weigh heavily on the mind and body of the patient. This may adversely affect their families and caregivers as well. 

Palliative care is a comfort service given to persons diagnosed with terminal illnesses. It is provided to improve the social, emotional, psychological and spiritual well-being of the patient and manage their symptoms. The goal of palliative care is to manage and enhance the quality of life of the patient and their family at such a critical time.

It is recommended to start palliative care early in the treatment process of a terminal illness. Palliative care can be carried out alongside curative treatment. This improves the patient’s quality of life through improved symptom control and reduced stress.

Healthcare professionals coordinate with your doctor to provide personalised management of symptoms and pain. Palliative care can be done in the hospital, at a palliative care clinic or at home if the patient and their family decide. 

The Case for Home-Based Palliative Care (HBPalC)

There are different reasons a patient and their family will opt for Home-Based Palliative Care (HBPalC) – 

  1. Personalised and attentive relationship-based care for the patient.
  2. The comfort of being at home surrounded by loved ones and memories.
  3. The patient’s dislike for hospitals.
  4. Meal preparation and special nutrition needs. 
  5. Housework
  6. Patient’s privacy

Home-Based Palliative Care is provided by a team of trained healthcare professionals who are on-call 24/7 so you know your loved one is taken care of at all times. They also monitor nutrition and fluid intake to ensure clients meet their dietary needs. Care professionals ensure patients take their drugs in the right dosage.

Assessing Eligibility and Needs

Any person who has been diagnosed with a terminal disease like cancer or dementia is eligible for home-based palliative care. 

  • HBPalC is for every patient that requires day-to-day care and regular hospital visits to manage their pain and other symptoms. 
  • It is for patients who want to continue carrying out their normal daily activities despite their diagnosis. 
  • This is also for families that feel overwhelmed taking care of a sick loved one and cannot catch up with all the medical details.
  • This is for patients dealing with depression, anxiety, or hopelessness. 

The care professionals provide solutions to practical problems such as financial or job-related problems, housing and transportation problems, and legal issues. They also provide psychological and spiritual/moral support to the patient and their family. This helps them to effectively handle terminal diagnosis and its complexities. These professionals provide guidance and a safe way to deal with the condition in the comfort of your home surrounded by people and memories you love.

Navigating Challenges and Solutions

Home-Based Palliative Care is not foolproof, and there can be some challenges. The upside is that these challenges are easily redeemable. 

Some challenges include: 

  • As in the name, the care will take place in the patient’s home. They may feel exposed and vulnerable having unfamiliar people in their homes and this may trigger stranger anxiety. 
  • There are some concerns that home improvements for home-based care may devalue the home. Many patients fear that accessibility renovations will affect the resale value of their homes and interfere with their financial plans. 
  • Another concern is whether there will be 24/7 support and regular check-ins, especially for a patient with limited mobility. Patients may also be older and struggle with using high-tech communication tools. In cases of emergency, what happens when they cannot get to the phone to call their care provider?

Here are some solutions to alleviate the challenges of HBPalC:

  • To avoid stranger anxiety, the patient and their family must know the professionals that will be in their home and meet them beforehand. Building a connection with the trained professionals helps ensure they don’t feel like strangers. The patient and their family will vet the care professionals to ensure they feel comfortable with them. This process also ensures the care providers fully understand the needs and priorities of the patient and their family.
  • Where mobility renovations are required for effective home care, it is important to remember that these changes support you or a loved one. They help you feel as good as you can as you manage the illness. For resale purposes, houses that are wheelchair accessible, for example, may be valuable for older buyers or buyers with mobility considerations. Consult an interior designer or architect before any renovations.
  • Before choosing a palliative care service you have to undertake extensive research. There are basic considerations to have as you vet services for yourself or a loved one. One of these considerations is regular and punctual home visits based on the patient’s needs. They must also provide 24/7 care support and check-in at intervals, as is standard practice at Vivid Care Services. This is helpful when the patient is unable to reach out or in emergencies.

Setting Up Home-Based Palliative Care

To set up home-based palliative care, first, there has to be an evaluation to clarify the needs, goals, challenges and treatment options of the patient. Considerations are made for the patient’s preferences, what type of care they want to receive and how. 

Then, a care plan is formulated for the client. It can be a basic care plan or a more extensive care plan where the house may need to be adapted to make the client independent. The healthcare professionals coordinate with the client and their doctor to ensure effective care is administered. Sensitive materials such as drugs and medical tools are kept in a safe place in the home. 

Accommodations are made for the visiting professionals who have to be in and out of the house. Technology is also set up for calling and communicating with professionals when they are out of the house.

The family may have more hands-on involvement in taking care of the patient. In this case, it is important that they are adequately educated in the treatment and care process and support the healthcare professionals wherever they can.

Conclusion

There is an increasing number of critically ill patients in the UK who require home-based palliative care for the various advantages it provides for the patient and their family, including reducing the cost of recurrent hospital visits for pain and symptom management. 

A home-based palliative care support will cover meal preparation and housework needs, monitoring of nutrition and fluid intake, and relationship-based care for the client.

Palliative care helps the patient and their family have more control over the illness. It helps the patient continue their normal activities at home to create a sense of normalcy and ultimately improve their quality of life. Healthcare professionals help and guide the patient and family through this critical time in the comfort of their home. The patient is surrounded by love and support from their families while still getting expert care from a team of healthcare professionals.