Frequently Asked Questions

Any person with symptoms resulting from a serious illness would benefit from Palliative Care.

Serious illness describes a broad range of medical conditions, such as cancer, AIDS, multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB), severe heart, lung, kidney and liver diseases and progressive neurological conditions.

Serious illnesses are typically life-threatening, negatively affect quality of life and are associated with potentially burdensome symptoms and stress.

Palliative Care is appropriate for any patient with a serious illness, at any age and at any stage, and can be provided alongside curative treatment.

In fact, there is recent good evidence that shows that people who access Palliative Care early on, have less anxiety and depression and enjoy a better quality of life.

  • A careful assessment of the problems caused by the serious illness.
  • A discussion of the options for managing these problems based on the preferences of the ill person and the family.
  • Providing expert advice with appropriate medication.
  • Coordinating the care of these troublesome symptoms.
  • Careful follow-up to ensure progress in achieving the best quality of life.
  • Access to advice based on the best evidence available through our network of national Palliative Care experts.

For patients struggling with symptoms that make it difficult to be as active as they would like to be or which affect their quality of life such as pain, nausea and vomiting, constipation or diarrhea, depression, anxiety or fatigue, doctors and nurses do medical assessments and offer appropriate medical advice and support.

For those patients and families needing help with knowing what to expect, which questions to ask or making difficult medical decisions, someone with Palliative Care expertise can take the time to talk them through it. Exploring goals and wishes with a patient and their family, can help to align goals and treatment decisions.

Counselors or psychologists provide counselling and individual, family or group therapy; social workers provide social and family support; spiritual counselors provide spiritual care and support; other health care practitioners such as physiotherapists, occupational therapists and dietitians may be called upon to provide additional support as is necessary.

Palliative Care is every health care provider’s responsibility.

Where  more specific expertise is required,  a specialised team of Palliative Care trained doctors, nurses, social workers and/or counsellors is available. This team will work in close collaboration with your oncologist/physician/surgeon/general practitioner  to provide an extra layer of support.

Palliative Care is a developing field in South Africa; there are established Palliative Care teams in most major centres. New teams are also being developed in several areas.   

We are keen to collaborate and support health professionals throughout South Africa who would like to improve their skills in Palliative Care. We have an active discussion forum for sharing ways of managing complicated problems.  

Modern technology has great potential to link patients and health professionals throughout most of the country.

This care is offered where-ever the patient is. Support can be offered in hospital (including the ICU), in an out-patient clinic or in a doctor’s consulting rooms. When appropriate it can also be offered in a patient’s home.

Most medical schemes recognise the value of Palliative Care and a few have introduced special Palliative Care benefits to assist their members. These benefits need special motivation from a doctor.

The South African government has endorsed the World Health Assembly resolution 67.19 (2014) to provide access to Palliative Care for everyone. An implementation plan (2018-2022) is being finalised and better Palliative Care is gradually being developed in state hospitals.

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