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A certainty of life is that, sooner or later, it must, unfortunately, come to an end for us all. Palliative care (better known - though mistakenly so - as end-of-life care) exists to make sure this passing can come as peacefully and comfortably as possible.

It is important to be aware of what palliative care entails, and what options are available for palliative care since there are a few misconceptions about it. Discussing these will be the purpose of this article.

What does palliative care involve?

End of life care exists to provide support to those persons who are living in the last weeks, months, or years of their lives. The important thing about this care is that the carers who provide for you take your wishes and preferences into account when drawing up your personal care plan (which staff can learn to do with Care Planning training).

End of life care can be received in multiple places, such as care homes, hospices, or hospitals. It can even occur in your own home, but deciding on that requires much thought about the best balance of needs, practicalities, and preferences.

Palliative care itself is a part of the wider, end-of-life care process. Palliative care is aimed at reducing the amount of pain and suffering that results from incurable illnesses and attempts to make the patient as comfortable as possible, although it doesn’t have to occur at the end of life. It can be received at many points throughout the illness.

Palliative care is a holistic form of medicine, aimed at treating people as an individual and not just focusing on the fact they have an illness. As such, palliative care also involves psychological and spiritual support for both the patient and the wider family of the patient.

Most professions within the medical community provide some amount of palliative care in one way or another as part of their jobs. Community nurses and your local GP, for example, would be the first port of call for dealing with palliative care.

However, people often need additional, more specialised care. As such, there are various groups of specialised palliative care nursing teams, occupational therapists, and physiotherapists. These specialists are highly trained in dealing with palliative care and offer training to other professionals. 

At what point will someone receive end-of-life care?

End of life care ultimately begins whenever it is required for an individual, be it over

the course of a few hours or multiple years.

Someone is considered to be at the ‘end of their life’ when it is predicted that their health issues will cause them to die within the next 12 months. However, there are also a few other criteria that will make someone eligible for end of life care. These are:

  • Having a life-threatening condition caused by a single, sudden, catastrophe (as is the case with strokes etc)
  • Having an advanced and incurable illness (such as cancers, dementia, or ALS)
  • Having existing conditions that could cause you to die from a sudden escalation of the condition
  • Or, are generally frail, with other conditions at the same time which will likely cause death within 12 months

Ultimately, these guidelines exist in order to make sure that someone who is tragically ill will receive the proper dignity they deserve as a human, and that their families will be properly supported in providing care.

Flexebee offers a range of training programmes covering aspects of palliative care. We teach care workers how to treat someone considered at the end of their life with our Palliative and End of Life Care training course. This course addresses issues of patient management, such as how to create a care training plan. Refer to our Care Essentials page for care-related training, such as care planning and personal care, and also how to treat patients coming to the end of their life in care with the Dignity, Privacy and Respect Awareness course.

Essential to the work of any care worker or institution involved in palliative care is that the family of the patient is treated with respect and empathy. Loss and Bereavement training teaches staff about cultural awareness and managing the environment when a family loses a loved one, as well as record-keeping and duty of care.

To read more about caring for older residents in care, take a look at our article Treating Elderly Patients in Care with Dignity and Respect.