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Palliative Care: Easing Non-Pain Physical Symptoms

Explore the ways you can provide compassionate and comprehensive care for individuals facing serious or life-limiting illnesses.

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Palliative Care: Easing Non-Pain Physical Symptoms

  • 3 weeks

  • 3 hours per week

  • Digital certificate when eligible

  • Open level

Find out more about how to join this course

Enhance patient care using health assessment tools and tailored treatment plans

Palliative care provides important support for people living with serious or life-limiting illnesses and their family caregivers.

On this three-week course from the University of Colorado, learn how to use symptom assessment tools to better administer appropriate interventions to individuals with serious or life-limiting illnesses, including those suffering from anorexia, cachexia, dyspnea, and gastrointestinal issues.

By the end of this course, you’ll be able to integrate palliative care strategies into your practice, enhancing the quality of life for those navigating serious illness and their caregivers.

Utilise symptom assessment tools to alleviate suffering

You’ll begin this course by identifying common non-pain symptoms found in patients suffering from serious illnesses, including anorexia and cachexia, to better manage patient health and provide family members support.

Delve further into other non-pain symptoms, including dyspnea and cognitive impairment

To understand how medications and integrative pain therapies work to reduce dyspnea and fatigue, you’ll recognise their impact on symptom severity and patient comfort.

Familiarise yourself with different types of cognitive impairment, including delirium, and offer effective management strategies.

Learn more about palliative care from the University of Colorado

Throughout this course, you’ll be guided by the University of Colorado’s team of qualified experts and healthcare professionals.

If you’re interested in delving further into palliative care, the University of Colorado offers several other courses on pain management, whole-person assessment, and easing psycho-social-spiritual distress. Find them [here] (https://www.futurelearn.com/partners/university-of-colorado-system).


  • Week 1

    Easing Non-Pain Symptoms in Palliative Care Introduction

    • Introduction to Common Symptoms and Anorexia

      People living with serious illness often have more than five non-pain symptoms, like loss of appetite, dyspnea, weakness, confusion and many others.

    • Routine Symptom Assessment

      A number of symptom assessment tools have been developed, tested and evaluated. We will briefly review two common ones.

    • Challenges in Symptom Screening and Assessment

      There are some specific challenges that we need to be aware of in symptom assessment and screening. One, patients may downplay or under report symptoms. Two, language in culture can be a barrier. Three, whose symptom is it?

    • Anorexia and Cachexia

      In this activity, you will learn about the common symptom of anorexia and cachexia.

    • Let's Talk About it. Addressing Concerns of Patients and Family About Anorexia

      When you understand anorexia you are able to look for reversible causes, support patient and family emotional distress, and offer practical help to manage this problem.

    • Screening for Anorexia and Weight Loss

      It is much better to prevent or slow weight loss than trying to reverse the weight loss once it has occurred. So, screening and being proactive is important.

    • What to do? Helping People Eat More

      There are many ways to encourage people to eat more, such as, getting up and out of bed and sitting at the table with others, offering more frequent smaller portions, offering easy to swallow foods, and more.

    • What Else Could Be The Problem?

      We have looked at issues such as pain and weakness, contributing to not feeling well overall. During symptom assessment, you'll pick up on these symptoms and work to help people feel better.

    • A Pill That Makes You Eat and Gain Weight

      No one treatment is likely to help everyone, but there are some medications that may aid in gaining weight.

    • Introduction to Common Symptoms and Anorexia Assessment

      Review Learning Objectives

  • Week 2

    Shortness of Breath Dyspnea

    • Introduction To Dyspnea

      This activity will discuss Dyspnea. A common symptom experienced by many patients with chronic life-limiting illness.

    • What Does It Feel Like?

      In this activity, we'll talk about what it feels like to be short of breath. We will also discuss other symptoms that may happen with shortness of breath, or what we call dyspnea.

    • Managing Dyspnea

      Treatment for Dyspnea, or shortness of breath, is different for each person, and depends on the cause of the shortness of breath, how severe the disease is, the type of symptoms they have and how long they’ve been present.

    • Lifestyle Changes

      In this activity, we're going to talk about some ways you can help others to pace themselves and slow down, encouraging them to use energy slowly over the day instead of all at once will help them feel less tired.

    • A Conversation Between Martha, Rhonda, and Elizabeth

      Learn more about Martha Sturdivant’s story and case study: A Focus on Interstitial Pulmonary Fibrosis.

    • Introduction to Fatigue

      During this activity, you learn about the physical symptom of asthenia, also called fatigue. Fatigue and weakness are seen in almost all people living with serious illness.

    • We All Need To Speak The Same Language About Fatigue

      It's helpful to understand what someone means by fatigue, are they talking about feeling tired, getting exhausted with minimal effort, feeling mentally tired or physically being weak. It might be a combination of problems.

    • Why Am I So Fatigued?

      The reason a person is feeling fatigued is in part due to medications, depression, anemia and several other problems.

    • Polypharmacy

      Many medicines can contribute to fatigue, because they have some sedating properties. Adding several of these medications together will make someone feel very sleepy and fatigued.

    • How Bad Is Your Fatigue?

      To help with developing a treatment plan for fatigue, it's helpful to ask questions to help assess the degree of fatigue, associated distress and the impact on activities.

    • What Can We Do?

      The basic idea is if you only have a small amount of energy, where is it best used? What are less important things that you could stop spending energy on?

    • Medications for Fatigue

      Medicines can play an important role in select patients. Counseling and medications are more effective in treating the depression than either method alone, a trial of medication for depression may be helpful.

    • Weakness and Fatigue Assessment

      Review Learning Objectives

  • Week 3

    Cognitive Impairment and NVC Introduction

    • Cognitive Impairment Introduction

      Cognitive impairment involves a deteriorating process in the brain including perception, memory, judgment, and reasoning.

    • Types of Cognitive Impairment

      Dementia is one example of cognitive impairment. Learn more about the different types of dementia here.

    • Normal Aging

      Many changes in our ability to think are considered a normal part of aging. Just as how our brains continue to develop through our youth, our brain function also declines as does in other body systems over time.

    • Delirium

      Delirium is a set of symptoms caused by something else happening in our body. It is treatable and reversible, but it must be recognized before care can take place.

    • Near Death Awareness

      Near death awareness refers to the dying person's experiences of the dying process. Near death awareness concerns those traveling toward death.

    • Caregiver Burden

      The role of a caregiver can be complex, stressful, and costly. The responsibility of a caregiver can cause both physical and mental stress.

    • Key Points

      Let's summarize the key takeaways of cognitive impairment.

    • Cognitive Impairment Assessment

      Review Learning Objectives

    • Nausea, Constipation, and Vomiting Introduction and NVC

      Nausea, vomiting, and constipation are frequent symptoms among patients with advanced illness. The aim of this lecture is to review how these symptoms occur and how they can be treated from a palliative care perspective.

    • What Makes People Vomit?

      There are signals sent by areas of the body that can cause someone to vomit. Learn more about how these signals can cause vomiting in an individual.

    • Treatments for Nausea and Vomiting

      Everyone at some point has experienced nausea and vomiting. Let's explore the various treatments that may help relieve these symptoms.

    • Constipation

      Constipation is a subjective meaning and can be a unique experience for everyone. For the human body to produce a normal bowel movement, there needs to be the right proportion of internal movement and lubrication.

    • Nausea, Vomiting, and Constipation Assessment

      Review Learning Objectives

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Develop a working understanding of the causes of anorexia, cachexia and dysphagia and appropriate evaluation of underlying causes.
  • Identify ways to help patients live well with dyspnea.
  • Develop a working understanding of the causes of fatigue, weakness, and asthenia and appropriate evaluation causes.
  • Compare the different types of pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic treatments used for nausea and vomiting and constipation to know which might be effective based on the underlying pathophysiology.
  • Create a list of the common types of cognitive impairment, the underlying disease process of each as well as the signs and symptoms of each condition.
  • Apply the NURSE model to respond to patient or family emotional response and distress to these symptoms as they progress.

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for healthcare providers working with seriously ill patients and their families, including nurses, doctors, pharmacists, and allied health professionals.

It’ll also be helpful for family and community members of the seriously ill.

Who will you learn with?

Who developed the course?

University of Colorado

The University of Colorado is a recognized leader in higher education on the national and global stage. We collaborate to meet the diverse needs of our students and communities. We promote innovation, encourage discovery and support the extension of knowledge in ways unique to the state of Colorado and beyond.

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Ways to learn

Choose the best way to learn for you!

Buy this course

$109/one-off payment

Fulfill your current learning need

  • Access to this course
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Printed and digital certificate when you’re eligible

Subscribe & save

$349.99 for one year

Automatically renews

Develop skills to further your career

  • Access to this course
  • Access to 1,000+ courses
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Digital certificate when you're eligible

Cancel for free anytime

Limited access


Sample the course materials

  • Access expires 9 Aug 2024

Find out more about certificates, Unlimited or buying a course (Upgrades)

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