What is palliative care?

Lynne Hagon, Registered General Nurse and Clinical Lead at Great Oaks, an Encore care home, explains about palliative care and what it means:

What is Palliative care?

Palliative care is provided to someone that has been diagnosed with an end-of-life prognosis.  This is when an illness or condition becomes terminal and the hospital cannot do anymore in terms of treatments to cure the illness, such as dementia, cancer, Parkinson’s, multiple strokes, multiple sclerosis, and short-term acute illnesses like kidney disease.

What is end-of-life care?

End of life care is the same as palliative care.  The prognosis for end-of-life care can be imminent or it can be months.  However, when a patient or resident needs end-of-life care, it means they can no longer be looked after at home due to their high care needs, and therefore, they need professional care and support.

What is the difference between palliative and end-of-life care?

There is no difference between palliative and end-of-life care.  They are different terms that are used in healthcare for the same type of care.  Palliative is often used as it is less of a definitive term.

How does palliative care differ from other types of care?

Palliative care is the management of care and support.  It is more of a supportive role than a treatment role, not only to provide support to the resident but also to their family.  Palliative care treats the symptoms of the illness but with a big focus on comfort care.  Nurses and Healthcare assistants provide a supportive role to the resident to help them to accept their condition, as well as to the families, to help them to accept an end-of-life prognosis. If you’re interested in learning more about the role, see our article on what Palliative Care Nurses do and how to become one.


Palliative care supports families during the different phases of end-of-life conditions.  It also refers residents and relatives to counselling services, such as Macmillan.  Palliative care provides treatment to the individual to help to manage the condition, such as antibiotics or painkillers, however, the patient/resident would not actively be admitted to hospital continually, as the prognosis is that there is no cure.

What are the 3 forms of palliative care?

Palliative care in a care home

Only homes with specially trained staff, such as Encore, can provide palliative care. Receiving end-of-life care in a care home is a more comfortable option than moving to a hospital ward.  Care homes such as Encore Care Homes provide a calm, caring environment in which to receive the physical and emotional support needed.

Hospital palliative nursing

This form of palliative care is usually delivered over a short-term period. Palliative care teams in hospitals will arrange for individuals to be transferred to hospices, care homes, or in their own home (as long as they have round-the-clock support arranged by a carer specially trained in palliative nursing).

Hospice daycare

This option delivers palliative nursing care, however, unlike care homes, you do not have to reside in a hospice permanently. An individual receiving treatment in a hospice daycare can attend for the day and then return home.

What is the focus of palliative and end of life care?

The focus of this type of care is to treat the symptoms as they arise and to provide comfort and counselling to both the resident and their family.

What are the 5 stages of palliative care?

There are 5 stages of palliative care, which can help people to understand and decide the right time for them to start the process.

  • Stage 1 – creating the initial plan to be flexible, so that it evolves as the illness requirements change. This plan is usually made with input from healthcare professionals, the individual, and their family.
  • Stage 2 – Emotional and spiritual care is provided to the patient and their family by professionals such as medical social workers, interdisciplinary teams, and a chaplain.
  • Stage 3 – Care teams such as nurses and physicians work to ensure the patient can maintain as much independence as possible; often by installing home health aides and arranging assistance from carers who can assist with daily tasks that the individual is beginning to find difficult.
  • Stage 4 – This is the time where permanent care at a care home or hospice is arranged if this is wanted by the patient and family. For those that do not wish to leave their home, live-in care can be arranged to continue to provide the support you need within your home environment.
  • Stage 5 – This stage encompasses bereavement support for the patient or resident’s family and friends.

What are the 5 aims of palliative care?

    1. To manage and treat symptoms and pain associated with the illness
    2. To provide support and counselling to the resident and family to help them understand the illness and accept the prognosis
    3. To take a holistic approach, which as well as the physical care, assists in psychological and spiritual care to look after the wellbeing of the individual in their entirety
    4. To be there to support you and your loved ones through the journey, and not to promote or attempt to prevent dying
    5. To support residents/patients to make the most of every day and help them to live well

What is done in palliative care?

Palliative care begins with a diagnosis, which is made in a hospital setting or with the General Practitioner.  Treatments are discussed and about whether they are appropriate or not.

The illness is monitored and treated symptomatically (where pain levels are controlled and residents/patients are kept comfortable, such as with antibiotics or painkillers.  However, residents are not sent into hospital), and treated actively (to help to extend the lifespan or make symptoms better or reduce them but not cure).  Every treatment plan is different.  A decision process is made in the hospital – either by the patient or with their family involved too.

Palliative care is often about meeting expectations.  Residents might not take their prognosis on board, or they might change their minds about wanting treatment later.  Individuals do not always fully understand their diagnosis straight away, and palliative care incorporates the support for each person in mind, body, and spirit.

Palliative care provides advice and support in further treatments if individuals change their minds.  The care experts ensure they fully understand their prognosis and the support that is available to them and their loved ones.

Palliative Care at Encore Care Homes

At Encore Care Homes our end of life care enables us to help you, or your loved one to live as comfortably as possible and to ensure, without compromise, that you or your loved one passes away with respect and dignity.

Find out more about the palliative care we offer by calling us.