Patients & Families

Providing Patients and Families Support Every Step of Their Palliative Care Journey

The Purpose of Palliative Care:

Palliative care strives to enable individuals to continue with their daily lives and maintain their independence to the fullest extent possible, all while ensuring their satisfaction within the constraints of their illness. The emphasis is on enhancing the “life” within a person’s remaining years rather than solely focusing on extending their lifespan. Recent research has highlighted that early referral to palliative care not only significantly improves patients’ quality of life and emotional well-being but can also extend their survival compared to those receiving standard care.

When is Palliative Care Necessary?

The palliative care approach is applicable across all illnesses that lack a cure, irrespective of age, and, in some cases, it begins at the time of diagnosis. A guideline for considering a palliative care approach is when a clinician answers “No” to the question, “Would you be surprised if your patient died in the next 6-12 months?” This response should prompt an informed discussion between the treating clinician, the patient, and, when appropriate, the family.

Methods of Delivering Palliative Care:

Palliative care is delivered through various avenues, all with the goal of bringing care to the patient rather than requiring the patient to seek care. The National Advisory Committee on Palliative Care (NACPC) Report (2001), adopted as government policy, identifies three levels of palliative care service provision: a palliative care approach integrated into all healthcare disciplines, general palliative care with additional training and experience, and specialist palliative care dedicated to palliative care provision. Specialist Palliative Care is offered by a multidisciplinary team, led by a Palliative Medicine Consultant, which includes healthcare professionals like doctors, nurses, social workers, psychologists, chaplains, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, pharmacists, dieticians, and complementary therapists. This specialized care can be administered in acute hospitals, community hospitals, nursing homes, and patients’ homes. Notably, the responsibility for palliative care extends beyond specialist services to encompass the entire healthcare system.

The Role of Generalist Palliative Care Providers:

Generalist palliative care providers, which include general practitioners (GPs), public health nurses, trained nurses, and staff in residential care settings, possess essential palliative care skills. They play a fundamental role in delivering high-quality care to individuals with life-limiting illnesses. However, when patients experience unstable symptoms or high-intensity, complex, or frequent issues related to their illness, specialist palliative care services should be engaged. The care system should exhibit the flexibility necessary to ensure that specialist services can adapt to changing needs, respond promptly, and collaborate effectively with generalist providers.

Locations for Delivering Palliative Care:

Palliative care transcends physical locations. Specialist Palliative Care (SPC) aims to provide care wherever the patient is, whether it be in an acute hospital, community hospital, nursing home, hospice, or their own home. SPC functions best when it operates as an integrated program, combining inpatient (hospice) and hospital-based services with community services, bereavement care, education, and research services. Seamless transitions between care settings are essential to ensure patients and families can access the most appropriate care at any given time. For instance, SPC programs may provide in-reach services to community hospitals and nursing homes, reducing unnecessary Emergency Department visits. SPC also collaborates with primary care teams to enable children with life-limiting illnesses to receive care in their homes.

Responsibility for Palliative Care:

Palliative care is a collective responsibility within the healthcare system. Specialist palliative care services may directly provide care to complex patients, but they also offer education and support to primary care and other specialist teams. The benefits of palliative care are accessible to individuals of any age with life-limiting illnesses and should ideally commence at the time of diagnosis. While palliative care initially focused on cancer patients, it has expanded to include individuals with various advanced life-limiting conditions, such as neurological diseases, heart failure, renal conditions, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, among others. Palliative care can coexist with curative treatments, often managing the symptoms and side-effects associated with those treatments.

Availability of Palliative Care:

Palliative care is provided in hospitals, both through inpatient and outpatient services, as well as in the community, hospices (often called Specialist In-patient Units), and patients’ own homes. The objectives of palliative care remain consistent regardless of the care setting.

Accessing Palliative Care:

Although palliative care is often associated with end-of-life care, it is not synonymous with it. Palliative care can extend over a considerable period during which patients can lead independent lives. End-of-life care is specifically tailored to individuals whose conditions have deteriorated to the point where death is imminent, or their life expectancy is limited to a short period, typically weeks or days. Palliative care can be provided concurrently with curative treatments, whereas end-of-life care usually excludes curative measures.

In conclusion, palliative care embodies a holistic and compassionate approach to healthcare, aimed at enhancing the quality of life for individuals with life-limiting illnesses and their families, regardless of diagnosis, age, or care setting.

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Palliative Care Organisations


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Questions & answers

Frequently Asked Questions

Who Can Become a Member of IAPC?

Membership in the Irish Association for Palliative Care (IAPC) is open to professionals across various disciplines involved in palliative care, including doctors, nurses, social workers, counsellors, therapists, educators, administrators, and more.

What Benefits Come with IAPC Membership?
  • Education, networking and development opportunities.
  • Access to membership only events such as workshops & webinars.
  • Free membership to the European Association of Palliative Care (EAPC).
  • Access to a knowledge sharing network of 53 national palliative care associations in 30 European countries.
  • Reduced rates for IAPC & EAPC events.
  • CPD points for relevant events.
  • Access to the members only section of the IAPC website.
Who are the members of IAPC?

Membership of the IAPC is made up of doctors, nurses, educators, therapists, dietitians, chaplains, allied health professionals and many others with an interest in palliative care.

Does the membership run from Jan – Dec annually?

Membership runs from the date of joining i.e. if you join in March your membership runs from March – March.  Statements will be issued several times throughout the year.

Should I notify you if my details have changed?

Yes.  Please advise any of your details change, home address, work address, work title, phone number & email.

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