What end of life care involves
End of life care is support for people who are in the last months or years of their life.
End of life care should help you to live as well as possible until you die, and to die with dignity.
The people providing your care should ask you about your wishes and preferences. They should take these into account as they work with you to plan your care. They should also support your family, carers or other people who are important to you.
You have the right to express your wishes about where you would like to receive care and where you want to die.
You can receive end of life care at home or in care homes, hospices or hospitals, depending on your needs and preference.
People who are approaching the end of life are entitled to high-quality care, wherever they’re being cared for.
- Find out what to expect from end of life care
Providers of end of life care
Different health and social care professionals may be involved in your end of life care, depending on your needs.
These professionals may include:
- hospital doctors and nurses
- your GP
- community nurses
- hospice staff
- counsellors a
- social care staff
- chaplains (of all faiths or none)
- occupational therapists
- complementary therapists
If you are being cared for at home or in a care home, your GP has overall responsibility for your care. Community nurses usually visit you at home. Family and friends may also be closely involved in caring for you too.
What palliative care involves
End of life care includes palliative care.
If you have an illness that can’t be cured, for example, terminal cancer, palliative care makes you as comfortable as possible. This involves managing your pain.
It also involves psychological, social and spiritual support for you and your family or carers. This is called a holistic approach, because it deals with you as a "whole" person.
Palliative care isn’t just for the end of life. You may receive palliative care earlier in your illness while you are still receiving other therapies to treat your condition.
Providers of palliative care
Many healthcare professionals provide palliative care as part of their jobs. An example is the care you get from your GP or community nurses.
Some people need additional specialist palliative care.
This may be provided by:
- consultants trained in palliative medicine
- specialist palliative care nurses
- specialist occupational therapists
Palliative care teams are made up of different healthcare professionals and can co-ordinate the care of people with an incurable illness. As specialists, they also advise other professionals on palliative care.
Finding out about end of life care in your area
If you are approaching the end of life, or caring for someone who is, and you want to find out about the care and support available, speak to your GP.
They will be able to put you in contact with healthcare professionals in your area.
Part of their job is to help you understand which services are available locally. You can ask about all sorts of help – for instance, there may be particular night-time services they can tell you about.
For help and support in your area
- Palliative care – Belfast Health and Social Care Trust
- Palliative care –Northern Health and Social Care Trust
- Palliative care – Southern Health and Social Care Trust
- Palliative care – South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust
- Palliative care –Western Health and Social Care Trust
Beginning of end of life care
End of life care should begin when you need it and may last a few days, or for months or years.
People are considered to be approaching the end of life when they are likely to die within the next 12 months, although this isn’t always possible to predict.
This includes people whose death is imminent, as well as people who:
- have an advanced incurable illness such as cancer, dementia or motor neurone disease
- are generally frail and have co-existing conditions that mean they are expected to die within 12 months
- have existing conditions if they are at risk of dying from a sudden crisis in their condition
- have a life-threatening acute condition caused by a sudden catastrophic event, such as an accident or stroke
There may come a time when, because you are incapable of managing your property and financial affairs, you will need someone to do this for you. You can formally appoint a friend, relative or professional to hold a Power of Attorney that will allow them to act on your behalf.