What does palliative care mean?
Coming to terms with a life-limiting condition, however early you receive a diagnosis, can be difficult to get to grips with – not just for the individual but for their family too. That’s where our friendly and compassionate carers from Helping Hands can step in and provide you with the right level of support for your specific needs. Whether you need help with keeping as active as possible in and around your home or if you just need some companionship and someone to share your anxieties with, we’ll be with you every step of the way, providing physical and mental support that’s tailored to you.
Palliative care explained
Palliative care is practical and emotional support for those who have a life-limiting health condition or terminal illness. It can be provided to individuals for several years from the beginning of their diagnosis, right up until the last days and weeks of their life.
Many people assume that because they are receiving palliative care, they will die. But this isn’t always the case. Palliative care can be offered to someone with a long-term condition to help with the side effects of their treatment, which they later go on to recover from.
Palliative care has a range of different aims; from enabling someone to keep in touch with their friends and assistance getting their weekly shopping, to pain management and personal care. The ultimate objective is to aid them to lead life on their terms and support them with planning for the future, which may involve end-of-life care.
Whether you receive medical treatment from a district nurse or chemotherapy from your local hospital, palliative care can work alongside other treatments to prolong your life or make your symptoms more manageable. Our carers and care managers have experience at working with a variety of different healthcare professionals and organisations that support with palliative care, ensuring that the care you receive includes everything that you require it to.
Who is palliative care for?
Palliative care can be for anyone who has a life-limiting condition and needs extra support managing with the physical and psychological aspects of their life. Life-limiting conditions tend to be diseases or illnesses that are unable to be cured but can be managed with medication and care, such as:
- Dementia, including Alzheimer’s
- Heart failure
- Huntington’s disease
- Motor neurone disease (MND)
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
Palliative care doesn’t necessarily need to be provided at the end of someone’s life and can in fact be given to someone for several years. This may start in the form of visiting care, where a carer pops in regularly throughout the week to support you with housework and personal care. As your condition progresses, you may find that you need more frequent support via live-in care, where a carer will live with you in your home to be on hand and assist you with mobilising safely, medication prompts and companionship.
We recognise that living with a terminal illness or condition can be quite an upsetting time for everyone involved. That’s why palliative care isn’t just about supporting the individual that is unwell; it’s about emotionally supporting everyone involved in their life too. So, whether you live with a partner or spouse, or have children or close friends that are a large part of your life, we can help your loved ones to cope with your prognosis, signposting them to other specialist organisations and being there for them through the good and not so good times.
When does palliative care become hospice care?
There are several similarities between palliative care and hospice care, but some clear differences too.
Both types of care will be provided to someone who has a chronic health condition or life-threatening illness. They both aim to control symptoms as much as possible, both physically and psychologically, and putting the person’s needs, wishes and comfort first above anything else.
Generally speaking, palliative care can begin at any point of an individuals’ diagnosis or treatment – whether that’s at the very beginning of their illness or after several years or treatment when they are nearing the end of their life. The aim is to improve the quality of their life in all aspects; physically, emotionally, socially, psychologically and spiritually.
Hospice care begins once treatment to prolong somebody’s life has stopped and they are supported by medication to ease the pain of their symptoms and keep them as comfortable as possible. This will usually occur when someone is coming towards the end of their life and have several days, weeks or months left to live. Hospice care can be provided either within the familiar surroundings of the person’s own home or in a hospice itself – this decision is made by the individual or by their Power of Attorney on their behalf if they are unable to make the decision themselves.
Another key difference between palliative care and hospice care is that the former does not always result in someone dying. There are instances when palliative care is provided to someone during an intensive course of treatment for their chronic condition, such as chemotherapy for cancer, and they will go on to recover from their illness. Whereas hospice care is provided when all types of treatment have been exhausted and sadly that individual will pass away within days, weeks or months. The aim with hospice care is to then keep them as comfortable as possible, helping them with pain management, personal care and their final wishes.
Page reviewed by Samantha Atkins, Regional Clinical Lead on March 3, 2020