Palliative care can be provided at any stage in patients’, families’ and carers’ journeys, from diagnosis to bereavement. The diagram Palliative care at any stage of life threatening illness shows two main types of treatment (i) treatment to modify/cure a disease and (ii) treatment of symptoms associated with disease which threatens life.
Palliative care provides support, as well as control of pain and other symptoms whilst patients are still being treated for illness from a disease, as well as when a patient has decided not to have further curative treatment.
Early in the course of disease, patients may need both curative treatment as well as palliative care to treat symptoms. Later in life, most needs are for palliative care to relieve symptoms and provide support, although some treatments may still stall progress of the disease.
Palliative care may be provided for short, rapid or extended periods of declining health. Palliative care may be useful soon after diagnosis, early in the course of illness from a disease or when it causes particular difficulties which prevent patients, families and carers achieving goals or doing what is important to them.
Palliative care can also be stopped when patients, families and carers situations are stable and started again when they unstable, deteriorating, terminal and/or bereaved. Stable situations can come and go at any stage of illness from a disease.
Patient, family and carer needs vary widely in both what and how much care, support and information is needed over time. Patients, families and carers participate in planning their care and service provision so the best care is provided when it is needed.