Supportive care: not only for cancer

30 Jun 2016

Referring to an article in last week’s Medical Journal of Australia on the importance of supportive care for patients with cancer, an MJA InSight article this week urges the wider use of such comprehensive supportive care, arguing that it has relevance to most areas of health care, particularly for general practice in caring for the aged.

Ian Maddocks, AM, emeritus professor of Palliative and Supportive Services at Flinders University, notes there are diseases and discomforts that are at risk of missing effective supportive care when the focus of clinical attention is on pathology, investigation and therapy. He states that of particular importance are the conditions that affect a high proportion of the ever-increasing numbers of elderly patients: the chronic diseases of diabetes, airways disease, cardiac failure and osteoarthritis; the problems of dementia, mental illness and frailty; and the compassionate care for the dying.

He writes that supportive care in this context calls for the same holistic patient-centred approach to assessment and care that is encouraged for cancer and highlights the essential role of the family practice in caring for the elderly in residential aged care facilities and in their own home in the local community.

The AMA encourages the use of palliative care plans in aged care as a way to ensure that patients’ needs and wishes are respected and everyone involved in the person’s care follows the same agreed approach.

The AMA Position Statement Palliative Approach in Residential Aged Care 2015 outlines the appropriate considerations in taking a palliative approach to the care and management of elderly patients.

Read more in MJA InSight