Different health professionals involved with palliative care
DoctorsPatients may have a GP, a specialist or other doctors caring for them. Sometimes people have known their GP or specialist for a long time and can develop close relationships. Others won’t always see the same doctor all the time. It can be helpful to have someone from the family with them, who can help to explain what is happening.
Family members may not have the same GP as the patient. Illnesses affect everyone involved. It is a good idea to consider giving doctors and other health professionals permission to talk to each other if family members are having any health issues at the same time.
NursesThere are nurses within the hospital, there are community based nurses, palliative care specialist nurses and aged care and veteran affairs’ nurses. They may not all be involved in providing palliative care. Sometimes nurses share the care, so there may be more than one nurse for different reasons. They may leave a 'community file' at home with notes about the patient’s care. This is to help make communication as open as possible. Nurses provide crucial support. They will explain the details of physical care, and sometimes also provide care that is needed. They can talk about the medicines that are to be taken, and offer an opportunity for patients and their families to share feelings and emotions.
Social workersOften social workers are involved in palliative care. They can help families understand what is happening 'in the system'. They can help to understand the emotional, psychological, social and practical matters that will have to be tackled.
Occupational therapists and physiotherapistsPhysiotherapists help people to maintain as much movement and functional ability as possible. Occupational therapists look for any changes that may be needed at home. This is to help someone who is ill to stay at home safely. It will also help to support the family in providing care. These changes may include hand-rails in the toilet or shower, temporary ramps for wheelchairs and other aids to help with daily living. Physiotherapists and occupational therapists will often work together to help support people at home.
PsychologistsPsychological care can be obtained in hospitals and palliative care units, and in private practices through referrals from GPs. Psychologists undertake assessment and treatment of the cognitive (beliefs and attitudes), behavioural, emotional and social factors related to the management of palliative care, including non-drug approaches to pain management. They help patients, carers and health professionals develop strategies to better cope with the palliative process
Other health professionals
- Dietitians, speech therapists, pharmacists and complementary therapists can all contribute to improving the quality of life of patients
- Case managers are sometimes assigned to help coordinate care
- Pharmacists can be found in chemist stores or in the hospital. They often provide helpful information on the effects of the drugs that patients are taking
- Aboriginal Health workers are able to help Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.