Nutrition and Hydration in Palliative Care, within Aged Care

May, 2017

Both speech pathologists and dietitians spend much of their time finding ways to improve or sustain a resident's nutrition and hydration as safely as possible.

However there are a large number of clients and residents whose goals do not revolve around maintenance of nutrition and hydration but instead focus on quality of life and comfort. Palliative care is a term that many of our readers hear and use on a daily basis. But do we all truly understand the meaning of it?

I often come across nursing staff or clinical managers who previously requested a review for a resident only to have this cancelled on the basis that the resident has become "palliative".

But doesn't a person with a life-limiting illness deserve the same access to allied health professionals as their non-dying counterparts? It seems strange that when a person begins a pathway that seemingly requires more care, that we should stop offering access to allied health services.

Palliative care is a form of care where a person's goal is not curative and does not aim to prolong life, but instead looks to optimize and maintain quality of life and comfort. Palliative care requires a multidisciplinary approach using holistic goal setting with key stakeholders.

It is also essential that these goals are established as early as possible to ensure optimal management. It is so important to ensure that person has access to the best team of professionals and staff in their final years, months, and days to ensure palliative and end of life goals are met. Palliative care or a palliative approach to care may commence from the moment a person is diagnosed with a terminal illness. For instance, dementia is a terminal illness to which there is no current cure.

A palliative approach to care does not mean that person ceases treatment for any illness or ailments as they arise, however the overall goal is generally to optimise this person's quality of life without focusing on curative treatments. A true palliative approach to care is client/resident centred and requires an understanding of a person's wishes in order to achieve this. If the goal of palliation is to improve comfort, wouldn't you want access to allied health members who can reduce the risk of pressure injury through optimising protein intake? Or reduce the risk of falls through a tailored nutrition management plan?

Shouldn't we be offering more access to services that can assist someone to eat and drink comfortably as they come towards the end of their life? All of these are active management plans but are aimed at optimising comfort and quality of life.

It is essential that we provide the best services possible to our clients and residents with life limiting conditions through an holistic palliative care approach.

For more information about how dietitians and speech pathologists can help make your site leaders in palliative care, contact us on 1300 850 246.

Dietitians Australia

Don’t let your residents or budget experience the side effects of malnutrition or dysphagia.
Call us on 1300 850 246 or email and request a call back.

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