What does palliative and hospice care mean and is it applied in Bulgaria?

You probably read or hear more and more often that the provision of palliative care in our country is a problem and most of the patients do not receive innovative therapies, adequate treatment, or appropriate medications. But what does palliative care mean to you? Do you know if you or your loved one needs them? Are you interested in what a hospice is and is there a difference compared to the homes where elderly people are accommodated?

Today we will talk more about palliative care. We will try to make everything clear considering the hospice and its role as a medical institution, which seems to be often equated to that of nursing homes in Bulgaria. We will tell you what kind of people work in hospices, what is their mission and how important it really is not only in our country, but all over the world, where palliative care has long crossed the order of the unknown and is a normal service with a single goal – control of the pain and suffering experienced by patients in an advanced stage and providing physical, mental, and spiritual support to the patients and their families.

What is palliative care?

Palliative care is specialized medical care for people living with a serious life-threatening illness such as cancer or heart failure. During palliative care, patients receive medical care to control their symptoms on their own or at the same time as treatment designed to cure their serious illness. Palliative care affirms life and has one main goal – to improve the quality of life of the patients and his family.

Who can benefit from palliative care?

Palliative care is provided to anyone who suffers from a serious life-threatening disease such as heart failure, chronic lung disease, cancer, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and many others. Palliative care can be helpful at any stage of the disease and is best provided soon after the disease is diagnosed.

What kind of people provide palliative care?

As in any profession, it is a team of professionals in various fields who work with the patients, his family and other physicians who have cared for him so far to provide medical, social, emotional, mental, and spiritual support. The team consists of doctors and medical specialists in palliative care and includes others such as caregivers, nutritionists, and sometimes religious people according to the patient’s faith. The team for a person can vary depending on his needs and the level of care that is needed.

What is hospice care?

As the disease progresses despite active treatment, more and more patients choose to stay in a hospice for the rest of their lives, where a team of trained professionals focuses on the care, comfort, and quality of life of the patient with a serious illness.

The hospice is a medical institution created for this situation and must have permanent medical staff. The main goal of the hospice treatment is not only to treat the patient’s illness, but also to alleviate his suffering as much as possible through the palliative care provided to him.

Like palliative care, the hospice provides comprehensive care for comfort as well as family support, but unlike the specialized palliative care units at the hospice, active treatment aimed at curing the disease stops. Hospice care is usually recommended for patients with an incurable disease with an expected survival period of six months or less if the disease occurs naturally.

It is important for the patients to discuss the possibilities of receiving hospice care with their doctor in a timely manner to make the most of the benefits it offers. Early awareness and admission to a hospice can provide months of meaningful care and quality time with loved ones.

Where is hospice care provided?

In Bulgaria, it is widely, but completely wrongly provided in nursing home, which is why many believe that the two institutions mean the same thing. The truth is that hospice care is completely different medical service (we emphasize medical, because in nursing homes residents are usually not sick, there they are not treated, bur receive the necessary household care and attention). Hospice care, like palliative care, can also be provided at the patient’s home, but is much more meaningful to the team and the patients when provided in a specific place with the necessary medical equipment according to the patient’s needs.

For example, Blocks Hospice is located on campus, which has nursing homes, a medical center, and soon a rehabilitation hospital. This innovative approach, providing long-term care in one place has long been popular in the USA and Europe. It entered our country with the creation of Blocks and the mission of the campus to improve care for the elderly in Bulgaria.

Hospice care usually brings together a team of people with special skills – including nurses, doctors, social workers, spiritual counselors. Each team member works with the patient, caregiver, and/or family to provide the necessary medical, emotional, and spiritual support.

It is important to know that stopping active treatment to cure the disease does not mean stopping the whole treatment. A good example is the behavior of a patient with cancer. If the treatment team finds that the disease no longer responds to chemotherapy, the treatment is stopped, and the patient may decide to take advantage of the care provided in the hospice. There, other medical care continues if it is useful for the patient.

What are the advantages of hospice over caring for the sick at home?

In the most general case, people who trust hospice care understand that controlling pain and other uncontrolled symptoms helps them get through the ordeal more easily. This is the time they can spend with their family with the best possible quality of life.

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