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Understanding the Difference between End of Life Care and Palliative Care

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How to choose what’s right for you or your loved one

Choosing the right home care provision for yourself or on behalf of a loved one is an important decision. Most people only start to consider care options when it becomes apparent that some level of support is required. That of course means that they’re unlikely to know much about the options available – or the terminology used – which can make the choice challenging.

In this article, we’re going to explore the difference between end of life care and palliative care. While they are similar in some ways, and often interlinked, there are some distinctions worth being aware of so everyone’s expectations are clear – and met.


What is End of Life Care

End of life care is the specialist provision of help and support for someone who is nearing the end of their life. Whether it’s for a week, a month, or half a year, the objective is to make them as comfortable as possible, and to enable them to die with dignity when the time comes.


What is Palliative Care

Palliative care is the care given to someone living with an illness that is impacting their day-to-day life. It may be provided alongside curative treatments, or one day cross-over into end of life care, but either way it focuses on symptom management and on improving the individual’s quality of life.


End of Life Care vs Palliative Care

Palliative and end of life care both aim to relieve pain and increase comfort, and both are delivered by multidisciplinary teams, but there are key differences. If you’re not sure which type of care would be most appropriate for you or your loved one, read on to find out more about what they can offer, and what’s involved.


Timing and prognosis


B. End of Life Care:

End of life care is provided during the terminal phase of an illness when curative treatments are no longer an option – either because they are ineffective or because the patient makes the decision to stop treatment. The exact timing is different for everyone, but end of life carers are usually engaged when someone has a limited life expectancy, typically of six months or less.


B. Palliative Care:

Palliative care can be initiated at any stage of a serious illness, regardless of prognosis or life expectancy. It may be required for a number of years or just a few months – the exact timing will depend on the person, their illness, its stage, and their preference. It can still be accessed even if a patient’s condition improves or stabilises, or evolve into end of life care if needed.


Goals and Objectives


A. End of Life Care:

The ultimate goal of end of life care is to help terminally ill people live out the last of their life in comfort, and to die with dignity and in accordance with their wishes. While it can entail medical support – often to help manage symptoms and alleviate pain – and personal care, there is a psychological and spiritual side to it too. The family and friends of the supported person may also need some level of emotional support to help them come to terms with what’s happening and plan for what lies ahead.


B. Palliative Care:

The aim of palliative care is to help people maintain their quality of life for as long as possible by addressing their medical, physical, psychosocial, and spiritual needs. Emotional support may be offered to help them adjust to their diagnosis, and care teams may also guide them through complex treatment decisions so that their care plan is tailored to their wishes as well as their needs.


Scope of Care


A. End of Life Care:

As end of life care is usually provided in the terminal phase of an illness, care teams will look at how best to manage pain and discomfort. They will also want to help prepare the individual for what’s to come on a physical, emotional and religious or spiritual level.

At BelleVie, we work alongside family members, caregivers, and healthcare professionals – as well as the people we support – to ensure the support we’re providing is appropriate and respectful.

We’re committed to delivering compassionate care that’s reflective of a person’s beliefs and preferences, and to providing comfort and peace in the final chapter of their life.

The scope of our work isn’t limited to the person needing the support, however. We also offer bereavement support for their family and loved ones.


B. Palliative Care:

Palliative care is a broad term that covers a wide range of options. Different people will require differing levels of support, and their requirements may change as their illness advances.

At BelleVie, we reassess the care we’re providing on a regular basis so that it mirrors the progressive needs of our patients. Some may require help with personal care and household jobs, others may look to us to help manage their medication, control symptoms like insomnia or nausea, and to alleviate pain.

The people we work with often require emotional support too, particularly when their condition deteriorates. This can be a distressing time and we’re mindful to help them adapt and adjust at their own speed.

At some point, palliative care may need to escalate into end of life care. Our friendly teams are trained in both, so the people we support benefit from the familiarity and a seamless continuity of care.


Treatment Approach


A. End of Life Care:

In end of life care, treatment decisions prioritise comfort over curative measures. Focus is on managing symptoms, and on providing compassionate assistance and gentle reassurance.

At BelleVie, our treatment approach reflects our wider philosophy – that of people-centric care. Every decision we make is informed by the needs and wants of the person we support, whether they be physical, personal, emotional, spiritual or social.

Crucially, our unique structure means we can respond quickly as circumstances and care needs change – something that’s invaluable in end of life care where requirements can shift swiftly.


B. Palliative Care:

Palliative care uses a holistic treatment approach to help improve quality of life for those with life-limiting and/or life-altering illnesses. While medication may be used to alleviate pain and control symptoms, care packages usually go beyond medical treatment alone.

As with end of life care, palliative care may be emotional, psychological and spiritual. There’s also a practical aspect too, whereby carers may undertake household tasks, routine errands and personal care duties.

Palliative care is by its nature a collaborative effort involving a mix of healthcare providers and may involve multiple check-ups and lifestyle modifications. It’s all done to ensure people receive optimal care, but can be a little daunting. BelleVie can help ease the load by helping the people we support to keep on top of their diaries and to adhere to even the most complex treatment plans.


Care Settings and Providers


A. End of Life Care:

End of life care is typically provided in hospice settings, hospitals, or at home. It may involve a number of professionals, such as hospice teams, doctors, nurses, and caregivers trained in end of life care, though in some cases family members and loved ones also choose to play an active role.

Many people decide to receive end of life care in their own home, surrounded by the things they cherish and in an environment that is comfortable and familiar.


B. Palliative Care:

Palliative care is available in various settings such as hospitals, clinics, or at home. Every person’s requirements are different, so care plans are bespoke. However, care will usually be provided by a multidisciplinary team that may include doctors, nurses, social workers, and other specialists such as occupational therapists and physiotherapists.


Decision-Making Process


A. End of Life Care:

As with any type of care we provide, BelleVie end of life care is tailored to the individual. We therefore work with patients and their loved once to discuss options by exploring their emotional, cultural and spiritual needs, beliefs and preferences.

We take the time to explain the practicalities of what lies ahead, and provide guidance so patients and their families can make informed and timely decisions about things such as do-not-resuscitate orders and advance directives about medical intervention.

Some decisions can be difficult to make, but our teams are highly-trained and will ensure discussions are handled with tact and sensitivity and that the patient’s dignity is safeguarded throughout.


B. Palliative Care:

Collaborative decision-making is central to BelleVie’s palliative care offering. We invite the people we support, their loved ones, and wider healthcare teams to be involved in our care planning.

We set aside time to talk patients through their options, allowing plenty of opportunities for feedback and questions. We’re honest and open about what’s possible and achievable, and ensure the people we’re working with have the information they need to make informed decisions.

All of our care plans are reviewed on a regular basis to check they are keeping pace with any changes in the condition of the people we support. We will then dial support up or down as required.




A. End of Life Care:

Aiming to help people live the last of their life in comfort and to die with dignity on their own terms, end of life care is a specific area of palliative care. It can be accessed by anyone who has received a terminal diagnosis, usually when they have six months or less to live. The care is specialised, teams are highly trained, and support focuses on the unique requirements of the person needing support and those closest to them.


B. Palliative Care:

Palliative care encompasses a broader scope of care and can – but doesn’t have to – include end of life care. Care packages are comprehensive and holistic, covering everything from symptom management to spiritual support. It can be accessed by any individuals who is living with serious illnesses, regardless of their disease or its trajectory. As with end of life care, the preferences of the people we support are paramount.


Final Thoughts…

At BelleVie, we want to help people to live and die in comfort, and on their own terms.

We have good working relationships with local healthcare professionals and other care providers, regularly working alongside them to provide a holistic and seamless service that can flex with your needs and wishes.

Hopefully this article has helped explain the differences in the type of care we can offer. If you’d like to find out more, or still have some unanswered questions, then feel free to contact us.

Even if you’re not looking for care imminently, it may be worth having a quick chat. There’s no obligation to progress with any of our services, and it could help put your mind at ease.



What comes first, palliative care or end of life care?

Palliative care can be accessed at any stage of a serious illness; end of life care is usually reserved for final stage terminal illnesses when a person has around six months or less to live.

What are the 3 forms of palliative care?

Palliative care typically involves psychological, spiritual, and physical support – all with the aim of improving an individual’s quality of life.

Does end of life include palliative care?

End of life care is a form of palliative care, but focuses on providing comfort and preserving a person’s dignity in the final stages of their life.

What is the meaning of end of life care?

End of life care aims to make someone as comfortable as possible in the last stages of their life, and to support them to die with dignity.

Are end of life care and palliative care the same?

While end of life care is one aspect of palliative care, the two have different aims, and are usually delivered by slightly different teams.

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