Palliative care

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What is palliative care?

Palliative care provides support and treatment for anyone with a life limiting illness and their friends and family.  A life limiting illness is an illness that cannot be cured.  It can also be called 'life threatening' or 'terminal'.  Palliative care aims to make you as comfortable as possible, helping you to manage your illness, including physical symptoms, and to give you a good quality of life in the time you have left.  This can involve emotional, spiritual and psychological support for you, your family or carer.  It can also involve social care, for example help with everyday tasks such as washing, dressing and eating.

Palliative care is not just for the end of life, it can be received at any stage in your illness, for example whilst you are receiving treatment aimed at controlling your illness such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy.  Palliative care however includes end of life care for those nearing the end of their life. 

Marie Curie and the NHS website  have more information on palliative care.

The providers of palliative care and end of life care

Primary health care team district nurses and general practitioners are the main providers of palliative and end of life care in the community.  Many other healthcare professionals also provide palliative care as part of their jobs. This can include care workers and social workers.

Palliative care can be provided in different places including in your home, in hospital, in a care home or nursing home, and in a hospice.

Some people need additional specialist palliative care. Specialist palliative care professionals will have training and experience in this area, especially managing more complex care problems. This care may be provided by consultants trained in palliative medicine, specialist palliative care nurses, counsellors or specialist health professionals such as occupational therapists or physiotherapists.  Palliative care teams are made up of different healthcare professionals and can co-ordinate the care of people with an incurable illness.

Specialist palliative care services may be provided by the NHS, local councils or voluntary organisations.

How to access palliative and end of life care

If you are seeking palliative care or end of life care, speak first to your GP or health care professional to find out what help and support is available.  It may be helpful to book a double appointment so you have time to discuss your concerns.  This can include support for a family member or friend of the person who is ill. 

If you are receiving care from a hospice or other local service, you may be able to get support from them.  Even if you do not wish to have palliative care or end of life care, there is still support available.

The NHS website has further information on how to access support

Local services that are available

The Palliative Care Home Support Service (PCHS) provides personal care and emotional support for patients who wish to be at home in the last 4 to 6 weeks of life. See North Bristol NHS trust for more details.

St Peter’s Hospice is Bristol’s only adult hospice caring for local people with incurable illnesses. The hospice is committed to improving the quality of life for patients while extending care and support to their families and loved ones. 

National organisations

Marie Curie Cancer Care is a charitable organisation in the United Kingdom, which provides nursing care free of charge to patients and their families.

Macmillan are a cancer support charity offering end of life care and support to Cancer sufferers.

Planning ahead for end of life

Advance care planning involves thinking and planning for your future care in the last stages of your life.  You are able to let family, friends and health professionals know your wishes and plans for the future while you are able to do so.  This can include treatments you do not want to have.

The Marie Curie website has detailed information on what an advance care plan involves and how to make one

The NHS website provides further information on planning ahead including how to make a will and how to legally appoint someone to make decisions about your care if in the future you become unable to make decisions yourself.

Palliative Care for Children

Palliative care is also available for children and young people who have life-limiting conditions or life-threatening illnesses. Gaining the right support is vital to enable families to make the most of every moment they have together. There are a number of support services and organisations who offer palliative care, respite and bereavement support for these families.

The Paediatric Palliative Care and Bereavement Support Team care for children with life-threatening or life-limiting illnesses such as life-threatening or life-limiting illnesses, for example; genetic conditions, heart or lung disease, cancer, neurological conditions or trauma. Their help can start as early as at the point of diagnosis and includes palliative care, end of life care and bereavement support. The Team also offer a perinatal palliative care service for those who have learned their unborn baby has a life-threatening medical condition.

Lifetime Service-Sirona Care and Health are a team of Community Children’s Nurses and Psychologists which provide a service for children with life threatening, life limiting conditions that are non-malignant. Lifetime offers a number of services including palliative care, end of life planning when appropriate, family support and bereavement support.

Children’s hospice South West provide hospice care for children with Life-limiting conditions and their families. The hospices provide Respite and short breaks, emergency care, palliative care and end of life care. Referrals can be made right from the point of diagnosis of such an illness or condition, and the support provided will be tailored to the needs of the individual child and family and is reviewed over time. 

Jessie May is a children’s hospice at home service caring for local terminally ill children in Bristol, South Gloucestershire and the surrounding areas. Jessie May Nurses provide vital respite care, emotional support, end of life care, and bereavement support alongside family events that help create treasured memories.

Rainbow Trust support families who have a child with a life threatening or terminal illness and are in the greatest need. Family Support Workers provide a life line to these families and children.

Together for Short Lives is the UK charity that seeks to ensure that children and their families can make the most of every moment they have together. The charity has over 1000 members, including children hospices, voluntary and statutory sector organisations and professionals who care for seriously ill children and families.