Chronically ill people are occasionally asked to consider entering a period of receiving palliative care. Traditionally palliative care was equated with end of life care, so if you are offered palliative care it can be a daunting prospect and it is entirely natural to think that your healthcare workers are preparing you for the final stages of your illness. That is not the case.
End-of-life care usually revolves around making what time you have left as comfortable at possible. Increasingly palliative care does much more than that – the NHS information page on End-of-life care includes the following exerpt:
End of life care includes palliative care. If you have an illness that cannot be cured, palliative care makes you as comfortable as possible, by managing your pain and other distressing symptoms. It also involves psychological, social and spiritual support for you and your family or carers. This is called a holistic approach, because it deals with you as a “whole” person, not just your illness or symptoms.
Palliative care is not just for the end of life – you may receive palliative care earlier in your illness, while you are still receiving other therapies to treat your condition.
When we have spoken about palliative care to our patient groups here are some of the comments:
Palliative care can be very helpful. One individual I have worked with was very weak when we first met a few years ago after a very active life. He could barely speak. He was referred to a local palliative care team at a hospice where they were able to offer a variety of activities, holistic treatments and socialisation. He is now much better and a very chatty man, moving with a much better quality of life.
they introduce calm and certainty into a situation where neither are usually present.
I can’t recommend being referred to palliative care enough. Please don’t assume palliative care and end of life care is the same.
Palliative care is delivered by a range of medical professionals so you can make enquiries via your GP or hospital specialist. It can be delivered in a number of settings – in a couple of examples we heard about recently a local hospice provided support to achieve personal goals to live well – for the patient and their carer and family. It made a huge difference to the lives of the people concerned.