Care for the terminally ill


A look at the types of care available for the terminally ill. These include supportive care – provided by a range of charities, health care professionals and loved ones – and more specialist palliative care

There are a number of different care options available when a person is diagnosed with a terminal illness. Below we outline the choices that can be made and provide useful information to find out more details.

Supportive care

Supportive care is helping patients and their families to cope with their diagnosis and treatment.

It is offered by various charities (see below) from when the terminal illness has been diagnosed to the end. It involves support through diagnosis, treatment and/or cure, continuing illness, death and bereavement. Family members and close friends can also provide some levels of supportive care.

Supportive care assists the patient to live as well as possible within the scope of the illness by providing:

  • self help and individual strength;
  • relevant information;
  • psychological support;
  • symptom and pain control;
  • social support;
  • rehabilitation;
  • complementary therapy;
  • spiritual support;
  • end-of-life and bereavement care.

Palliative care

Palliative care forms part of supportive care. It is the total care of patients who are suffering from an advanced and incurable illness.

Palliative care takes an holistic approach, incorporating physical, psychological, social and spiritual care services, recognising that a reducing a patient's suffering is far more than just addressing the physical pain.

It aims to provide the best possible quality of life for patients and their loved ones.

For further information on palliative care, visit the National Council for Palliative Care's website.

Who qualifies for palliative care?

Anyone in the final stages of a terminal illness will need some degree of palliative care regardless of age, location, type of disease or any other factor.

The patient's GP, or medical professional treating the patient, will know when the patient qualifies for some form of palliative care.

Who provides palliative care?

There are two main categories of professionals who provide palliative care:

  • General health professionals who provide day-to-day help for patients in their homes and in hospitals; pain control.
  • Specialist health professionals, who work solely in palliative care.

Palliative care at home

Many people, given the choice, would prefer to spend the end of their lives at home rather than in a hospital, care home or hospice. To qualify for care at home depends on the type of care required.

To qualify for fully-funded NHS nursing care, the patient must meet a number of criteria.

Many types of care - including residential care - are classed as health care, and the patient is therefore entitled to NHS funding for their care.

The Royal College of Nursing has produced a comprehensive document describing the entitlement to NHS funded care, including a step-by-step guide to what to do if you think you have been inadequately assessed to receive NHS funded care.

How to apply for care at home

Your GP will refer you to specialist palliative care health care professionals who will carry out a needs assessment. This will determine how much, and what type, of care you need.

How much it costs

If you are not entitled to NHS funded care, rates for carers vary depending on the type and the amount of care you are receiving. A live-in carer can cost between £200-£400 per week.

24/7 nursing

The NHS can, in some cases, provide 24/7 nursing at home. There are also independent organisations that provide 24/7 nursing to patients with a terminal illness.

The Patients' Association will provide advice concerning the agencies that are best equipped to accommodate your needs.

Further information

Useful information and advice is provided by the National Council for Palliative Care (NCPC); The Multiple Sclerosis Society; The Motor Neurone Disease Association; Cancer Research; Marie Curie Cancer Care and Macmillan.

Planning For Your Future Care is an extremely helpful guide produced by the National End Of Life Care Programme, in collaboration with the University of Nottingham and Dying Matters.

Tags: terminal illness terminally ill Care at home residential care palliative care at home National Council of Palliative Care Multiple Sclerosis Society Motor Neurone Disease Association Cancer Research UK Marie Curie Cancer Care Macmillan

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