Integrating physical therapy into palliative care in Israel
Gila Shahar and Yael Rotem-Galili
Ministry of Health, Israel
The goal of palliative care (also known as supportive care) is to improve the quality of life of patients and their families who are dealing with the problems associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering. It entails the early identification, assessment, and treatment of pain, as well as other physical, psychosocial, and spiritual factors affecting the individual’s wellbeing.
The palliative care approach is growing worldwide, as well as in Israel. Palliative care is provided by multidisciplinary teams that include a range of healthcare professionals, among them physical therapists. Palliative care provided by physical therapists is designed to relieve pain, improve movement and mobility, and alleviate other common disease-related impairments and disabilities. In addition to direct patient care, which involves the use of various treatment techniques within the profession’s core skill-set, the physical therapist is expected to advise and educate the patient, the family, the primary caregivers, as well as other staff members. There is further need to emphasize the palliative care approach within the physical therapy profession, as well as to develop the necessary communication skills among physical therapists working in this field, through education and training. In Israel, palliative care is being promoted and implemented through legislation, regulations, organization of services, education, and training. Physical therapists are already taking part in these activities, and it is recommended that they expand their active participation in this important area in order to ensure optimal care of patients who may benefit from palliative care