what is palliative care at home

What is palliative care at home?

5 min read |
Alistair Clay Author

Author 24.11.2022

Alistair Clay

Palliative care at home is holistic care that supports people diagnosed with a life limiting or terminal illness.

Many people associate palliative care (and end of life care) with hospitals, care homes and hospices, but it can also be provided at home, which is more comfortable for the individual.

This can be a difficult time for families, so in this guide, 'What is palliative care at home?', we give you all the information you need to make the best decision for your loved ones.

Here’s what we will cover in this article:

  • Palliative care encompasses a wide range of treatments that support a person living with a life-limiting condition and much of the care can be provided at home. 
  • Personal care, domestic assistance, continence care, companionship, help with medication and more can all be provided at home.
  • Hospices are specialists in providing palliative and end-of-life care, and can be relied upon for respite periods if needed.
palliative care at home

Who is palliative care for?

Palliative care supports individuals diagnosed with a life-limiting, or terminal illness. 

A life-limiting illness is any condition that cannot be cured and will progress over time.

There are many examples of life-limiting illnesses, and they can occur in people of any age. 

Some examples include:

  • Late stage or advanced cancer
  • Dementia, including Alzheimer’s
  • Heart disease that has advanced past a certain point
  • Parkinson’s and other neurological conditions such as ALS
  • Lung diseases such as COPD
  • Motor neuron disease
end of life care at home

What is palliative care at home?

Palliative care at home can be provided as soon as a diagnosis of a life-limiting disease is given.  

It should support the individual healthcare needs of the person, plus the general wellbeing and quality of life requirements.

Palliative care may continue for some time as the condition progresses, and it may change upon the needs of the patient. 

End of life care

Receiving palliative care is not always an indication of being close to end-of-life, as it is sometimes thought. 

Some patients diagnosed with terminal illnesses can live for many years with the right care and treatment for the condition. 

Palliative care seeks to support the day-to-day comfort and quality of life for the person living with a life-limiting illness.

End-of-life care may include many of the same elements of palliative care, often with a greater emphasis on pain relief. 

A doctor will advise you when end of life care is needed.

can you get palliative care at home

What does palliative care include?

Palliative care involves a wide range of treatments and therapies, and can often support medical treatment which focuses on the condition itself.

For example, after a terminal cancer diagnosis there may still be an option to continue chemotherapy or radiotherapy. This will not stop or cure terminal cancer, but may possibly prolong life. 

This treatment is administered at the discretion of the doctor overseeing treatment. 

Palliative care is then everything else that supports the patient through these treatments and their day-to-day life. 

It may include pain management, prescribed by a doctor and administered by a nurse or carer.

And for those struggling with mobility, or to help maintain independence, physical therapy can also be incorporated into the care programme. 

If it is no longer possible for an individual to complete personal care tasks, a carer can provide assistance. Plus many aspects of domestic care such as housework and meal preparation.

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Therapeutic elements of palliative care

Palliative care can include elements of companion care and emotional support, or professional counselling or therapy. 

Spiritual, emotional and mental health support are available through the NHS or via other private sources. 

For relaxation, therapeutic treatments such as massage or acupuncture can be incorporated into palliative care, but these are generally privately arranged and funded. 

Individuals living with dementia may also benefit from occupational therapies such as art and music therapy.

therapeutic help for older people

Where is palliative care available? 

As palliative care encompasses a wide range of therapies and support, it can be accessed in different places. 

For instance, physical and / or occupational therapy may be part of a palliative care plan to maintain mobility, and support quality of life with as little pain as possible. It can be provided in the following locations:

  • At home
  • In a therapeutic setting i.e. a gym or rehabilitation centre
  • Residential setting such as a care home or hospice
  • A medical setting

Some people seek guidance and counsel from representatives of their chosen religious or spiritual group during their palliative care. 

  • At home
  • In a place of worship
  • Visiting a hospital or hospice
  • At outpatient treatment rooms

Counselling or psychotherapy can also be an important part of palliative care and you can access it in a variety of settings:

  • In person in a therapist’s office
  • online or telephone consultations 
  • At home

All personal care elements of palliative care can be delivered at home.

Care at home for a terminal illness

Do I have to go into a hospice for palliative care? 

The short answer is: not usually, if you don’t want to. 

Most people prefer to remain in their own home in familiar surroundings.

Staying at home might also mean being close to family and friends, or a local supportive community. 

People with a strong religious or spiritual practice might also prefer to remain close to their place of worship. Pastoral care from a religious or spiritual leader is often offered at home.

Palliative care at home

There are plenty of services and options available to provide at-home palliative treatment. Most care providers are able to support a person with a life-limiting illness. 

A team of carers and nurses will be able to administer personal care, such as washing and bathing, as well as provide domestic support. They may also be able to change dressings, and administer pain medication if needed. 

Carers can also be employed to provide companionship and company, or there are carers who sleep overnight, who can assist with night time care.

An at-home care service can support or facilitate many palliative care needs. There are also a range of therapists that can offer home visits if visiting a clinic or office is no longer possible. 

Sweet Pea Home Care

Find the right care for you

If you need more information you might like to read our guides on what is a care plan or what is domiciliary care.

If your loved one is living with dementia you can also find additional care guides on our dedicated dementia care section.

When you’re ready to find a home care agency then use the Sweet Pea personalised care matching service.

It’s easy, just enter your care needs and we’ll find available carers in your area.

Alistair Clay Author

Author 24.11.2022

Alistair Clay

Alistair is a founding Director of Sweet Pea Care and the Managing Director of social care communications agency Arc Seven where he advises some of the UK’s biggest care providers.