Unless you are a medical or caring professional, it can be hard to tell the difference between Palliative Care and End of Life Care, particularly if you or your family are facing into the kind of crisis that serious or terminal illness represents. To help make things a little clearer, we have put together this short guide to the two specialties:
End of Life Care is support for people who are in the last months or years of their life. This kind of care should help you to live as well as possible until you die, and to die with dignity. The people providing your care should ask you about your wishes and preferences, and take these into account as they work with you to plan your care. They should also support your family, carers, or other people who are important to you.
You have the right to express your wishes about where you would like to receive care and where you want to die. People who are approaching the end of life are entitled to high-quality care, wherever they’re being cared for.
Who provides End of Life Care?
Different health and social care professionals may be involved in your end of life care, depending on your needs. For example, hospital doctors and nurses, your GP, community nurses, hospice staff and counsellors may all be involved, as well as social care staff, chaplains (of all faiths or none), physiotherapists, occupational therapists or complementary therapists.
If you are being cared for at home or in a care home, your GP has overall responsibility for your care. Community nurses usually visit you at home, and family and friends may be closely involved in caring for you too.
What is Palliative Care?
Palliative Care is a multidisciplinary approach to specialised medical care for people with a serious illness, even if it is not life-threatening (yes this is accurate, palliative means pain relief- and towards the end of life this becomes a major focus for people – no one wants to die in pain its about giving them a quality of life without suffering- but palliative can also be for people who are not imminently dying but who are in serious pain) It focuses on providing patients with relief from the symptoms, pain, physical stress, and mental stress of a serious illness—whatever the diagnosis.
End of Life Care includes Palliative Care. If you have an illness that can’t 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.
But palliative care care isn’t 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.
Who provides Palliative Care?
Many healthcare professionals provide palliative care as part of their jobs. An example is the care you get from your GP, community nurses and social care staff.
Some people need additional specialist palliative care. This may be provided by consultants trained in palliative medicine, specialist palliative care nurses or specialist occupational therapists or physiotherapists. If the person is at home, our social care staff will also be providing care to this group of people and they are sometimes the people most involved on a day to day basis, both with the service user and their family. Our social care staff may be in the home four times a day and are required to understand, empathize and deal with all issues arising. They find this particular group of service users as both the most rewarding but also the most distressing to work with.
Palliative care teams are made up of different healthcare professionals and can co-ordinate the care of people with an incurable illness. As specialists, they also advise other professionals on palliative care.
Palliative care services may be provided by the NHS, your local council or a charity.
When does End of Life Care begin?
End of life care should begin when you need it and may last a few days, or for months or years.
People in lots of different situations can benefit from end of life care. Some of them may be expected to die within the next few hours or days. Others receive end of life care over many months.
People are considered to be approaching the end of life when they are likely to die within the next 12 months, although this isn’t always possible to predict. This includes people whose death is imminent, as well as people who:
- have an advanced incurable illness such as cancer, dementia or motor neurone disease
- are generally frail and have co-existing conditions that mean they are expected to die within 12 months
- have existing conditions if they are at risk of dying from a sudden crisis in their condition
- have a life-threatening acute condition caused by a sudden catastrophic event, such as an accident or stroke
How do I find out about End of Life Care services in my area?
If you are approaching the end of life, or caring for someone who is, and you want to find out about the care and support available, your first step is to speak to your GP or to call the number your healthcare professionals have given you.
Part of their job is to help you understand which services are available locally. You can ask about all sorts of help – for instance, there may be particular night-time services they can tell you about.
Glen Caring Services have invested in training staff in Final Journeys End of Life Care and have specialist trainers who provide the most up to date holistic care available for this group of service users in Omagh, Derry~Londondonderry, Strabane and Limavady. To find out more call us on 02882252666 or 07887508969 or email firstname.lastname@example.org