Palliative Care Symptom Management Resources

Palliative Care and Primary Care Clinicians

I just finished a project on palliative care. Although I have had a few patients over the course of my career as a pharmacist, I never really felt that I was confident enough in helping to reduce the symptoms as these patients approached the end of their lives.

I think feel that every primary care clinician can play an active role in improving the quality of life of these patients.  We can do this by actively assessing and managing common symptoms seen in palliative patients.

I was so impressed with the incredible resources that are available to help manage the most common symptoms seen in palliative care patients, such as:

  • Pain
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Fatigue
  • Breathlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Anorexia

By effectively managing these symptoms we can improve the quality of life and reduce the burden on both the patient and the family.

British Columbia Inter-Professional Palliative Symptom Management Guidelines

The BC Centre for Palliative Care has published a Palliative Symptom Management Guideline.  This is such a great tool for clinicians who are helping to manage a palliative patient in the community. It provides clear guidance on the assessment, interventions and different symptom management options. They provide an algorithm for each of the most common symptoms to help guide clinicians on the different treatment recommendations.

I would recommend that pharmacists and primary care clinicians download and keep it for when you need it.  This is important as the management strategies for these palliative symptoms can be very different than what we would do for a typical ‘healthier’ patient. Knowing these differences can have a dramatic impact on how well these symptoms are controlled.

Palliative Care Adult Network Guidelines Plus

The Palliative Care Guidelines Plus is a UK site that provides clinicians with up-to-date information on how to manage the most common palliative care symptoms.  It also provides some resources for the psychosocial and spiritual issues seen in palliative patients.  I found the site had a ton of highly practical information to help some of the key concerns expressed by patients and their families.  I would encourage you to bookmark it, so that you have it available when presented with a palliative patient in your practice.