Who is Referred to Palliative Care?

Many different kinds of patients attend specialist palliative care services, but all have a life-limiting condition. Treatment and care is aimed at helping the patient to live as well as possible, for as long as possible. Many of our patients have advanced cancer, while others have illnesses such as severe heart or lung disease.

People can need specialist palliative care at different stages of their illness. Some patients may be attending hospital specialists for active treatments to control their illness (like chemotherapy or radiotherapy), while others may have stopped hospital treatments. Some will have months or years to live; others may have only days or weeks. Patients are referred for specialist attention for many reasons, such as difficult-to-manage symptoms (like pain or nausea).

Palliative Care

  • Provides relief from pain and other distressing symptoms
  • Affirms life and regards dying as a normal process
  • Intends neither to hasten nor postpone death
  • Integrates the psychological and spiritual aspects of patient care
  • Offers a support system to help patients live as actively as possible until death
  • Offers a support system to help the family cope during the patient’s illness and in their own bereavement
  • Uses a team approach to address the needs of patients and their families, including bereavement counselling, if indicated
  • Will enhance quality of life, and may also positively influence the course of illness
  • Is applicable early in the course of illness, in conjunction with other therapies that are intended to prolong life, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, and includes those investigations needed to better understand and manage distressing clinical complications

In OLH&CS, the Specialist Palliative Care service is directed by consultants in Palliative Medicine. Palliative Medicine is a medical speciality recognised by the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland and the Medical Council of Ireland. Palliative Medicine is the appropriate medical care of patients with active, progressive and advanced disease, for whom the prognosis is limited, and the focus of care is on quality of life.  It includes consideration of the family’s needs before and after a patient’s death.

World Health Organisation Definition of Palliative Care

Specialist palliative care needs can change over time. Often, the progressive nature of illness means more specialist care is needed as time goes on.  However, for some patients, needs may decrease or stabilise such that they no longer require specialist palliative care services.  For these patients, it is appropriate to consider discharge from the hospice, with ongoing care from other health care providers.