Hospice palliative care is not a place, but rather an approach to the care of people with life-threatening illnesses (e.g. advanced cancers, end-stage heart and lung disease), which instead of focussing on the disease emphasizes the care of the whole person and their family, with particular attention to pain and symptom control and quality of life.
This care is provided by a multidisciplinary palliative care team with a core group of nurses, physicians and social workers supported by other professionals as necessary in areas such as pastoral care, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, psychiatry, pharmacy, art and music therapy. The care may provided in a variety of settings, including the patient’s home, a nursing home, palliative care unit, hospital in-patient unit or in a free-standing hospice.
Historically palliative care was synonymous with end-of-life care, but following the pioneering work of Dame Cicely Saunders at St Christopher’s Hospice in the 1970s the ‘palliative approach’ is now increasingly being integrated into cancer care at a much earlier stage, also into health care in general.
Hospice palliative care seeks to help people approaching the end of their life to continue to live with meaning and dignity, to relieve their suffering and ultimately to have ‘a good death’.