Palliative care is professional support for people with life-limiting illnesses and their loved ones. It’s designed to promote your comfort and living standards using a holistic approach, helping you to stay comfortable and manage pain and other difficult symptoms.

Rather than simply focusing on the physical aspects of your illness, palliative care incorporates psychological, social and spiritual care for you and your loved ones. 

What does palliative care do?

Palliative care mainly aims to improve quality of life for people with late stage dementia and help them live it to the fullest. To achieve this goal, palliative care will:

  • Help to manage physical symptoms like pain
  • Provide emotional, spiritual or psychological support
  • Provide support with daily practicalities like house cleaning, eating or getting dressed
  • Help loved ones to cope

Eligibility for palliative care

You can receive palliative care for dementia, cancer, or any other serious, long-lasting or life-threatening illness. 

Your care can start as soon as you receive a diagnosis, during treatment or at the later stages.

Palliative care can be provided in different settings, depending on the needs of the person. The four main ways are:

  • Palliative care in hospitals
  • Residential palliative nursing in a care home or hospice
  • Day care at a hospice
  • Palliative home care

Palliative care in hospitals

Palliative care teams work within hospitals to provide hospital staff with specialist advice on pain and symptom control. 

They can help hospital staff with discharge plans, or transfers to a hospice, community hospital or care home.

If an older person is in hospital and is still possible for them to be discharged and receive end of life care in another setting, you could apply for NHS continuing healthcare. 

This means a care package can be put in place quickly and the NHS will pay for the cost of the care, whether that is in a care home or within a person’s own home.

Find out more about NHS continuing healthcare.

Residential palliative nursing in a care home or hospice 

Hospices offer specialist care and support for people living with any terminal illness. The hospice team is made up of people with specialist end of life skills, including doctors, nurses, social workers, volunteers and religious/spiritual advisers.

Hospices provide compassionate care for people in the last phases of incurable disease so that they may live as comfortably as possible.

The care provided in a hospice is free. Ask your GP about hospice care if this is something that you would like to explore.

Day care at a hospice

Hospices may also offer palliative day care for people with progressive conditions such as dementia, where care and activities are provided during the day and then the person returns to their own home at the end of the day.

Hospice day care will offer enjoyable activities, the opportunity to socialise and meals in a communal setting. Some day hospices can also assist with picking people up from home and dropping them off at the end of the day. There may be a charge associated with transportation. 

Palliative home care

You can receive palliative care in your own home from NHS healthcare professionals such as your GP, community nurses and specialist palliative care nurses and occupational therapists.

You may also choose to pay for private carers to support you in your own home.

Talk to your GP about this if you feel you need palliative care at home.

Cost of palliative care 

The cost of palliative care varies depending on the complexity of your needs and the setting in which the care is received. 

Some people may require more support than others so providing an exact estimate is difficult. For a better idea of the expected costs, it’s best to speak with one of our dedicated care consultants by calling 0800 048 8618.

Palliative care and end of life care

Palliative care is often confused with end-of-life care as there are many overlaps and similarities. However, end-of-life care is only one stage of palliative care. You shouldn’t think of palliative care as giving up or death, but rather as support so you can focus on what matters most.

Read more about end of life care for people with dementia.

Related Articles

Looking after yourself

When caring for someone it is important to also look after yourself, view our tops tips on how to best do this

Types of Elderly Care

Guide to the different care services available to the elderly

Where to look for care

Many of us need some extra help in the form of care, this article helps advise on where to start looking for this