Palliative health care and the young adult population Essay Example

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Palliative health care and the young adult population

The palliative care experiences and end of life support of young adults and their families is normally not adequately provided throughout Australia due to insufficient equipments required to address the needs of this group. However, it is important that young adults receive services that are designed to address their particular needs (Grinyer & Barbarachild, 2011). Palliative care in meant to reduce suffering while assisting young adults with difficult medical conditions to have meaningful lives. In particular, family-centered care is important when supporting young adults and families adapt to a life-threatening illness. Palliative care must respect family’s culture when taking care of the psychological, physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs young adults experiencing serious illness (Bhatnagar & Joshi, 2011). Thus, palliative care is an approach used to help improve the quality of life of people and their families with serious illness and involves perceiving and relieving them from suffering (WHO, 2002). This paper discusses the why it necessary to provide palliative care to young adults and their families. It also discusses how nurses can support the needs of young adults and their families receiving palliative care using palliative approach.

Palliative care for young adults should be tailored to their specific needs and has to be appropriate to their age. Young adults suffer more socially and emotionally when facing life-threatening illness; this is why nurses’ support to this group and their facilities in very important (Monterosso, Kristjanson, Aoun,
& Phillips, 2007). Palliative care for young adults and their families facing serious illness protects them from emotional harm caused by problems they are experiencing. The main objectives of palliative care are to help sustain life of the person facing life-threatening illness since it considers dying as a normal process. Palliative care is also meant neither to postpone nor quicken death. In addition, through palliative care, the needs of individuals with serious illness are supported and are also counseled in case death occurs (Wowchuk, McClement, & Bond, 2007).

Young adults with life-threatening illness may receive palliative care in three different forms including a palliative approach, specialized palliative service and end of life care. Palliative approach involves showing open and positive attitude toward people who are yet to die and death itself (Grinyer & Barbarachild, 2011). In this case, young adults and their families are taken through an open discussion concerning death and the dying process. This makes it possible to recognize their wishes concerning end of life care. Specialized palliative care is when health care practitioners such as nurses are used to support young adults experiencing serious illness (Australian Government Department of Health and Aging, 2004). This form of palliative care does not actually replace palliative approach; instead it supports it by providing the necessary input to help young relief suffering.

Specialized palliative care requires nurses to assess and treat major symptoms the young adults are experiencing. It also involves provision of relevant information and advice to young adults and their families. When patients are in the final days or weeks of life, end of care is very important (Australian Government Department of Health and Aging, 2004). During this time, decisions concerning care may require frequent review. In addition, care for young adults at this stage of illness is focused on emotional, physical and spiritual comfort. The family members are also supported because it is normally a tough experience to witness their loved one die (Grinyer & Barbarachild, 2011).

According to McCulloch, Comac, & Craig (2008) open discussions with young adults and their families facing life-threatening illness prevent them from developing many thoughts of what will help next to their life. Family unit in palliative care help promote honest care environment where young adults develop feelings of being loved despite encountering serious illness. Good relationship between nurses, young adults and families facing serious illness provides not only a safe, but also a trusted environment that supports palliative care (Grinyer & Barbarachild, 2011). Young adults with life-threatening illness find it hard to accept the fact that their life will come to an end soon. They are interested in experiencing that their lives are significant and should continue living. The same applies to their families who always want their loved not to depart from them. Therefore, palliative care that uses a humanistic approach is useful in preventing these worries of among the patient and family members (Wowchuk, McClement, & Bond, 2007). Young adults experiencing life-threatening illness feel comforted and loved when visited and listened to as they wait to die (Bhatnagar & Joshi, 2011). Most importantly, young adults should be provided with individualized care during their difficult moments. Individualized care helps to enhance the dignity for young adults since the process makes them appear unique from others.

Palliative care for young adults helps to improve important aspects life as their life as they approach death, such as relieving the burden of people who care for the sick and also reducing symptoms of distress in the patient and family (Australian Government Department of Health and Aging, 2004). In addition, appropriate care for this group help to improve pain and other related symptoms of the illness which leads to family satisfaction and feel to have been supported emotionally (Monterosso et al., 2007). The manner in which care provider perceive death and dying influences how they provide care to young adults and their families facing life-threatening illness. Also, for palliative care to achieve its objectives, family and cultural beliefs have to be incorporated into the care plan (Grinyer & Barbarachild, 2011). Thus, when palliative care is effectively performed it helps the young adults to die peacefully.

Nurses play significant role in supporting young adults and families facing problems of life-threatening illness during palliative care. In addition, equipping nurses with adequate knowledge and skills to handle patients with serious illness facilitates better health care outcomes (Grinyer & Barbarachild, 2011). Through open communication, nurses ensure that the sick person and the family are aware of what is happening and what they should expect. Nurses also use this opportunity to inform the patient and the family the progress of the illness so as they can make right decisions concerning the person they love (McCulloch, Comac, & Craig, 2008). The information nurses give the patient and family members should be honest and realistic to enable then build courage to face the situations the way it progresses. Nurses support young adults who are in the last stage of life by commenting positively as they struggle with the pain and suffering which increases their acceptance of the dying process (Savage, 2011).

One of the main aspects of palliative care is to the management of symptoms of illness or reducing suffering. This is the role of nurses and they would always not want to watch a patient suffer needlessly (Bell, 2011). Nurses use all means possible to provide comfort to young adults experiencing pain and anxiety and any other symptoms of illness. A part from using medication to relief pain and suffering in patients, nurses’ presence is well received by young adults and their families as they are assured of support from health care providers. By listening to the patient, nurses show that they are concerned about their health and are willing to support them through the dying process (McCulloch, Comac, & Craig, 2008). According to Bell (2011) in participating in palliative care for young adults, nurses focus on identifying possible symptoms that may affect quality of life of the sick persons so as initiate ways to promote support and comfort not only to the patient, but also to family members who are close to the patient.

Symptoms associated with life-threatening diseases are not only physical distress as initially identified by quality-of-life researchers. Other symptoms include psychological social, emotional and spiritual suffering which young adults experience when facing terminal diseases (Savage, 2011). Nurses assess all these symptoms and address them holistically when providing palliative care to young adults and their families. However, pain is more prevalent in terminal illness and nurses manages it aggressively and proactively to promote comfort in young adult patients (Wowchuk, McClement, & Bond, 2007). Other physical symptoms nurses manage in young adults with life-threatening diseases include fatigue, weakness and vomiting. Usually, nurses manage physical symptoms affecting quality of life before they embark on emotional, psychological and spiritual needs of young adults facing terminal diseases (Bell, 2011).

Young adults receiving palliative care display psychological symptoms such as sadness, worry, depression, fear, guilt, anxiety and loneliness. Nurses allow this group of patients to discuss their fears and uncertainty with them and close family members, such as parents. This helps to relief them from distress (Bell, 2011). In addition, nurses allow young adults and their families an opportunity for acknowledging and expressing their grief as they seek to provide social support to help the patient and family face the painfully challenging moment in their life. As the illness progresses towards the end of life for young adults, the intensity of symptoms normally increases (McCulloch, Comac, & Craig, 2008). As much as nurses may show some discomfort in managing pain and other physical symptoms at this stage, they always try to ensure that they provide emotional support, especially to the family of the dying person.

Nurses also allow sharing of decisions with young adults and their families to keep them informed of what treatment and clinical trials he or she intends to apply to the patient to relief pain and suffering (Bell, 2011). By sharing information concerning the progress of the disease with the patient and family, the nurse helps to prepare them psychologically to handle outcomes as they appear (Bell, 2011). Young adults are interested in direct communication with the nurses and in making decisions that affect their life. Thus, nurses encourage information sharing with young adults and their families in palliative care to increase sense of control over the situation they are going through and improve coping strategies (Wowchuk, McClement, & Bond, 2007).

In conclusion, young adults and their families facing life-threatening diseases encounter very distressing moments in life. Coming to terms with the reality of death is so challenging, especially to young adults who did not expect to have the disease and to parents who had developed much love for their child. Palliative care helps to relief young adults and their families from pain and suffering. Nurses’ role in palliative care is to provide physical, emotional, psychological, social and spiritual support to young adults and families experiencing terminal diseases. All in all, this group of people while facing life-threatening illness should be adequately supported by nurses to experience a comfortable dying process.


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Bell, C.J. (2011). Palliative Care and the Family. Encyclopedia of Family Health. Ed. Martha Craft- Rosenberg and Shelley-Rae Penler. Thousand Oarks, CA: SAGE.

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