Palliative care focusses on people living with an active, progressive, and advanced life-limiting or terminal illness; people who show little or no prospect of cure, and who are anticipated to die from the illness. Palliative care includes care for caregivers and others who are important to the palliative person. The primary goal of palliative care is to enhance quality of life. Although palliative care cannot change health outcomes, it aims to make the journey through life-limiting illness as meaningful and comfortable as possible. Palliative care is essential because it provides people with holistic care that addresses physical, psychological, spiritual, social, and cultural needs.
Palliative care does not depend on a specific medical diagnosis or age, rather it is based on the individual needs of each person. People living with a wide range of progressive, life-limiting or terminal illnesses are eligible for palliative care, not just people living with cancer. Those living with dementia, non-malignant chronic illnesses, or degenerative diseases may also receive palliative care. Palliative care is also available to the elderly and frail.
By providing the person living with a life-limiting condition and their caregivers with options, palliative care ensures that their wishes and needs are met, so they can remain as independent and comfortable as possible, and be proactive in planning their care. Helping people understand their illnesses, sharing medical decisions and weighing the pros and cons of treatment are all factors in this process while, at the same time, tending to the person’s medical condition and treating their symptoms.
End-of-life care represents a small part of palliative care and refers to palliative care provided to those who have reached the end phase of their lives and are irreversibly dying. While people may receive palliative care for long periods of time (for example years, decades), end-of-life care is only offered to those who are irreversibly experiencing the dying process, which may take hours, days or, sometimes, weeks.