The reality is that sometimes medical treatment can’t cure us, but it can help us feel better in the moment.
A person with a termal illness might suffer with painful and debilitating symptoms, or might be unable to care for themselves. Hospice and palliative care aim to improve the quality of life and wellbeing of people who have an incurable illness and have received a terminal diagnosis.
Holistic End Of Life Care
A hospice is a home where care is provided for terminally ill patients. The hospice provides comfort and care when a patient cannot be cured or has chosen not to pursue treatment.
Palliative care treats the symptoms of a condition, without addressing the underlying cause. It provides support for people with a terminal, incurable, illness.
The aim is to provide holistic care which takes all aspects of a person’s wellbeing into account. This includes support with symptom management, social, practical, emotional, and spiritual support. Support is also provided for the person’s family and carers.
Hospice and palliative care places a high value on dignity, respect and the wishes of the terminal patient. Their goal is to help people live as fully and as well as possible until the end of their lives. In the UK, Hospice care is free, paid for through a combination of NHS funding and public donation.
When Is Hospice Needed?
Hospice and palliative care can be provided at any stage of a person’s terminal condition, which can happen at any stage of a person’s life.
A common misconception is that only the elderly benefit from end-of-life care, but in reality anyone with a prognosis of less than six months of life remaining is eligible for hospice care. Babies, children, and young people with life-limiting conditions can also receive hospice care.
Another misconception is that you only have access to hospice care when you are dying, but this is not true. A palliative care team might help control some of your symptoms for a few days before going home again or you may have several periods of hospice care, depending on your condition and wishes.
Some hospices and palliative organisations offer respite care where you can go into the hospice, or receive care at home, for a short while. This gives your family or carers a short break from looking after you.
People with a terminal illness, or a life-limiting condition can benefit greatly from hospice care. Conditions where hospice care is often beneficial include:
- Heart, liver and renal failure
- Respiratory conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Neurological conditions such as motor neurone disease
What Services Does Hospice Care Provide?
If you are considering hospice care, you should enquire about what facilities the hospice offers. The services that hospices and palliative care organisations offer vary, but most offer medical and nursing care. They might often also offer:
- Occupational therapy
- Complementary therapies, such as massage
- Rehabilitation – helping you remain independent through things like physiotherapy
- Respite care
- Financial advice
- Bereavement (grief) counselling
- Spiritual and psychological help including chaplain services. You can talk with them about your feelings towards death and dying, your faith, or your spiritual beliefs.
In the UK, local social services departments may assist by providing social care services to support people who are living at home. These services may include arranging help with personal care (such as getting washed and dressed), providing meals and helping with benefits-related issues.
If you are approaching the end of your life, or caring for someone who is, a doctor will be able to advise you on all available care and support. A district nurse may also refer you to a community palliative care nurse or hospice at home service.
If you have received a terminal diagnosis, it is prudent to plan ahead for your future care, including making your family and doctor aware of your wishes. Such wishes may include where you want to die or if you want to be buried or cremated.
It is also important to consider legal issues. Formalising a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA), for example, will allow a person of your choosing to make decisions about your care if you are no longer able to do so yourself.
Frequently Asked Questions
Most people access hospice or palliative care towards the end of their lives, but anyone with a terminal diagnosis can benefit from their support at any stage of their illness.
End of life care is a form of palliative care you receive when you are near to dying.
Your general practitioner, hospital doctor or district nurse would usually refer you for hospice care.