The Specialist Palliative Care Allied Health Professional Team Launch New Document

13/09/2018

During palliative care week the AHPs within Northern Ireland through their specialist forum are launching a new document focussing on the AHP role within symptom management. This document aims to support all those working within palliative and end of life care by clearly outlining the AHP interventions which are required to address some of the symptoms experienced by people with advanced disease.

In the current climate of health care the demand for palliative care is increasing and there is a need for responsive services for patients and families coping with advanced progressive illnesses in Northern Ireland. Palliative care requires a partnership between the person, family and the whole multidisciplinary team, ensuring the person, and those important to them, stay at the centre of their care.

The Specialist Palliative Care Allied Health Professional (AHP) team contribute their unique expertise to address a person’s priorities. Their interventions will include symptom control, rehabilitation, psychological, social and spiritual support. The team includes occupational therapists, physiotherapists, speech and language therapists and dietitians and within the South Eastern Trust is an integral part of the specialist palliative care service.

The aim of the team is to help the person with advanced disease and their family to live life as fully and comfortably as possible and continue doing things that are important to them for as long as possible. These goals will be different for every person, and the AHPs offer the opportunity to participate in a rehabilitation programme, at home or in a clinic setting and also provide a range of interventions alongside other health care professionals to manage the complex and often distressing symptoms of advanced disease.

Rehabilitation starts with patients and families identifying and agreeing achievable goals with the therapists. These can often be simple things like being able to communicate with family and friends or staying independent, being less dependent on others or perhaps going out with friends or being able to get out into the garden.

Some of the patients and families who have had access to the service shared the following comments:

A person with breathlessness was seen by the physiotherapist and occupational therapist and her daughter said

“You were helpful in managing her symptoms and calling out to her home. The advice and treatment minimised distress and discomfort. Her breathing was brought under control and she had no difficulties and passed away very peacefully”

A person with motor neurone disease talked about the importance of her Speech and Language Therapists support with her communication aid

“I have a connection with the outside world.  I am not isolated because I can email and text other people”. “I was able to use my ‘voice’ to ask questions”.

And the daughter of another person receiving support from the Palliative Care Dietician said

“Mummy was only able to maintain her PEG regimen with your support and help - you allowed her to be part of all decision making”.

“Do not count the days; make the days count”. – Muhammad Ali, Boxer.