Palliative care is an active caregiving approach of patients with chronical progressive disease regardless their age or other characteristics, and the support of their loved ones during patient's illness as well as after patient's death, during bereavement. Palliative care is a supportive treatment integrated into all medical specialties that is comprehensive and goes beyond treatment-oriented therapy. Its aim is the prevention and relief of suffering by means of identification and assessment and treatment of physical, psychosocial, and spiritual symptoms of patients diagnosed with incurable diseases and their loved ones.
In cancer patients, according to modern guidelines, palliative care should be applied once disease is widespread and incurable. Early palliative care is the period in patient’s disease trajectory when palliative care treatment is applied in tandem with curative treatment. As the disease progresses, the chances of influencing the underlying disease decrease and eventually disappear. This is when late palliative care begins, which aim is mitigating the burden of disease symptoms. Hospice care is only a small part of palliative care. The main goal of palliative care is to provide a support system that enable patients to live as full and active as possible and a peaceful and dignified death.
Palliative care is provided at all levels of the health care system (primary, secondary and tertiary level). At the Oncology Institute Ljubljana, all departments and clinics provide palliative care. When patients present with more complex problems, members of the Acute Palliative Care Team are involved in a joint assessment with the treating oncologist. Treatment by the Acute Palliative Care Team of the Oncology Institute is intended only for patients who are being cured at the Oncology Institute Ljubljana. The work of the members of the Acute Palliative Care Team today includes hospital, counseling and outpatient activities. At the Department of Acute Palliative Care, we treat patients with more complex problems. Admission to the ward is pre-arranged with the treating oncologist and physician of our Team or by a Palliative Care Coordinator. The department is dedicated to the treatment of acute complications that cannot be resolved at the primary care level. There are on average 250 admissions per year in the ward, with an average length of stay of 7 days. Patients once discharged home from the Department are monitored through a Palliative Care Coordinator. The Team of the Palliative Care Department, after a joint assessment with the treating oncologist, could also be involved in the treatment of patients cured at other clinical departments of the Oncology Institute. Patients are referred to the Early Palliative Care Clinic by their treating oncologists, for simultaneous monitoring with specific oncology treatment, when the patient needs more support.
The members of the Palliative Care Team strive to develop the culture of palliative care and spread the principles of the palliative approach through regular training and publications in order to bring palliative care as close as possible to the professional and lay public.