What is palliative care?
Palliative care is treatment, care and support for people with a life-limiting illness, and their family and friends.
It’s sometimes called ‘supportive care’.
The aim of palliative care is to help you to have a good quality of life – this includes being as well and active as
possible in the time you have left. It can involve:
managing physical symptoms such as pain
emotional, spiritual and psychological support
social care, including help with things like washing, dressing or eating
support for your family and friends.
A life-limiting illness is an illness that can’t be cured and that you’re likely to die from. You might hear this type
of illness called ‘life-threatening’ or ‘terminal’. People might also use the terms ‘progressive’ (gets worse over
time) or ‘advanced’ (is at a serious stage) to describe these illnesses. Examples of life-limiting illnesses include
advanced cancer, motor neuron disease (MND) and dementia.
You can receive palliative care at any stage in your illness. Having palliative care doesn’t necessarily mean that
you’re likely to die soon – some people receive palliative care for years. You can also have palliative care
alongside treatments, therapies and medicines aimed at controlling your illness, such as chemotherapy or
However, palliative care does include caring for people who are nearing the end of life – this is sometimes
called end of life care.
What is end of life care?
End of life care involves treatment, care and support for people who are nearing the end of their life. It’s an
important part of palliative care.
It’s for people who are thought to be in the last year of life, but this timeframe can be difficult to predict. Some
people might only receive end of life care in their last weeks or days.
End of life care aims to help you to live as comfortably as possible in the time you have left. It involves
managing physical symptoms and getting emotional support for you and your family and friends. You might
need more of this type of care towards the end of your life.
End of life care also involves talking to you and your family and friends about what to expect towards the end
of your life. The people looking after you will talk to you about your needs and wishes, and make sure they
consider what you want in the care they provide.
It can also involve support with practical things like making a Will or getting financial support.
How do I get palliative or end of life care?
Speak to your GP or another healthcare professional about how palliative or end of life care might help you
and how you can access it.
If you’re a family member or friend of the person who is ill, you may be able to access support for yourself. If
the person who is ill is receiving care from a hospice or other local service, you may also be able to get support
from them. Even if the person who’s ill doesn’t want to have palliative or end of life care, you can still get
support. To find out what’s available, speak to your GP, the person’s GP, or another health or social care