Palliative care: Introduction

Last updated: Thursday, January 21, 2016

You can download a PDF of the complete text of this tutorial, except the Learning Exercises

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Palliative care is an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and families facing the problems associated with life-threatening illness (WHO definition). This involves a holistic assessment of a patient's needs and effective symptom control is an important part of this. Palliative care may extend for many months and is not confined to the final days of life. 
 
As a pharmacist you may be asked to advise on the use of medicines for patients receiving palliative care such as those living with cancer, organ failure (such as heart failure) or a neurological diagnosis (such a multiple sclerosis). Clinical problems may range from managing side effects and drug interactions to troubleshooting administration issues such as halving transdermal patches and mixing drugs in a syringe driver. This tutorial briefly describes the management of some commonly encountered symptoms in adults.

Before reading on watch Joe and Melita share their story on the impact that good palliative care has on their quality of life. A second family share their experience of the value of end of life care. A further video interview with a specialist nurse in a community hospice explains what it is like to work in palliative care.