Palliative care is the active total care of patients whose disease no longer responds to treatment. Palliative care attempts to make the end of a person’s life as comfortable as possible by attempting to relieve pain and other distressing symptoms while providing psychological, social and spiritual support. Palliative care should not only be considered in the terminal phases of illness. You may need access to palliative care services almost from the point of diagnosis, particularly for help in dealing with social, spiritual and psychological issues. Carers and family may also be offered emotional and spiritual support.
Palliative care can be offered in your own home, in a hospice (residential or day care) or in hospital. If you decide to stay at home your GP or oncologist can arrange for community palliative care nurses, such as Macmillan or Marie Curie nurses, to provide care at home. The social services department may need to be contacted to provide a range of social care services and equipment to help you remain at home.
Specialist palliative care teams, such as the Macmillan support team, symptom control team, or pain management team, provide palliative care in hospitals or hospices. These teams include doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, dieticians, social workers and chaplains, or the service can be provided by a specialist nurse.
Palliative care teams help to manage your symptoms and enhance your feeling of wellbeing. There are a number of support services available to patients who are living with incurable cancer that can help to improve quality of life. For example, Marie Curie offer a range of complementary therapies that patients can access at their hospices for a few hours, or by attending a specific clinic. These therapies include acupuncture, aromatherapy, massage, reflexology, and shiatsu, which help patients relax and improve their feeling of wellbeing.