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Palliative Care

The below information is purely for educational purposes and does not constitute medical advice. This content should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice.

What is palliative care?

Palliative care is a holistic approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problems associated with life-threatening illness. This is done by managing the physical, emotional, and psychological symptoms associated with serious illnesses or conditions. This can be shown by providing pain management, symptom relief, and emotional support. It focuses on enhancing comfort and ensuring dignity for patients, regardless of the prognosis.

When should someone be offered palliative care?

Palliative care should be offered when someone is diagnosed with a serious or life-limiting condition, such as cancer, heart failure, or advanced dementia. It focuses on providing relief from pain, symptoms, and emotional distress, while improving quality of life. Palliative care can be offered at any stage of the illness, alongside curative treatment, to ensure holistic support and comfort for patients and their families. The aim of palliative care is to provide:

  • Information for the person and their family
  • Accurate and holistic assessment of a person’s needs
  • Symptom control
  • Psychological, social, spiritual, and practical support
  • Open and sensitive communication with the person and their family

End of life symptoms

Each patient is unique and the symptoms they experience during life-threatening illness depends on the condition. However common symptoms can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Pain
  • Reduced appetite
  • Constipation
  • Respiratory secretions
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Restlessness and confusion
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Weakness or paralysis of muscles

When does palliative care begin?

Palliative care may begin at any point since it focuses on providing relief from symptoms, pain, and stress. Palliative care can be incorporated alongside curative treatment from the time of diagnosis, throughout the course of the illness, and even during bereavement. The goal is to enhance comfort and well-being, addressing physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. For symptom control, the aim should be to use as few medications as possible. The type of medication used is dictated by the severity or mechanism causing the symptom.

Medicinal cannabis products may be considered when first line therapies have not achieved adequate symptomatic relief.

Palliative care treatment

There are 5 stages of palliative care which guide the treatment that is provided throughout. These include:

  • Creating a bespoke plan to ensure that all physical, psychological and spiritual needs are accounted for
  • Providing emotional and spiritual care to prepare for what may lie ahead.
  • Early-stage care, where immediate needs are attended to.
  • Late-stage care, where more permanent plans are put into action.
  • Support for family and loved ones during care, in addition to providing support through bereavement.

Palliative Care and Medicinal Cannabis

Research into the effect of medicinal cannabis in palliative care is limited. However, following the legalisation of cannabis for medical purposes in 2018, there has been a rise in people looking towards medical cannabis. When first-line therapies have not proved effective at reducing symptoms, medical cannabis may be considered an option for patients in this condition.

For further information and to find out more about medical cannabis, click here to discover more about our award-winning Curaleaf Access Scheme. Alternatively, complete an eligibility assessment now. Once complete, one of our clinicians will review your application and advise whether you are eligible for progression to an appointment.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Palliative Care

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In the UK, the cost of palliative care is mainly covered by the National Health Service (NHS). Patients with complex medical conditions are typically referred to specialist palliative care services, which are funded by the NHS. Additionally, charitable organisations and fundraising events provide financial support to ensure adequate funding for palliative care. However, it’s important to note that individual circumstances may vary, and some individuals may be required to contribute towards the cost of their care. Unfortunately medical cannabis, if deemed to be suitable, is rarely funded by the NHS.

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There are several forms of palliative care that can be provided to patients with various medical conditions. Some common treatments include pain management, symptom control, emotional support, and spiritual care.

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The duration of palliative care varies depending on the specific conditions and needs of the patient. Palliative care can be provided for weeks, months, or even years, depending on the prognosis and progression of the illness. The focus of palliative care is to improve the patient’s quality of life and manage symptoms, regardless of the length of time required.

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Palliative care is generally free in the UK, ensuring that individuals with life-limiting illnesses receive comprehensive support and comfort during their end-of-life journey. However, private options are available, which may involve additional costs depending on personal preferences and circumstances. Unfortunately medical cannabis, if deemed to be suitable, is rarely funded by the NHS.