Palliative care: know the types and the importance

In some cases, medical treatments and procedures no longer produce results. At that time, palliative care is a great way to provide more well-being and comfort to patients and the family involved in the process.

Want to better understand what they are and how they can help? Check out the article!

What are palliative care?

Palliative care can be defined as a type of therapeutic approach aimed at the quality of life and well-being of patients and family members who face a life-threatening illness.

Therefore, several therapeutic measures are carried out with the aim of preventing and relieving the pain and suffering of patients of diseases without cure, mainly.

This approach early identifies any discomfort or discomfort that the sick person may experience. And it offers a treatment that provides quality of life.

That is, doctors, nurses and caregivers specialized in palliative care focus on quality and not on the duration of life.

In this way, the person receives humanized and compassionate care so that they can live comfortably.

Palliative care is also indicated when treatment no longer has the expected effect and, despite prolonging life, causes suffering.

This approach can be performed at home, in the hospital, in a long-term care facility (hospice) or in a health unit. The best place is where the patient feels most comfortable.

The decision when to start this approach is made jointly with the medical team, patient and family.

In addition to medications and various treatments to relieve pain and provide comfort, palliative care involves psychological, social and spiritual support.

Since the 1990s, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended palliative care as part of comprehensive care for human beings. This assistance extends to the family and to the caregiver during the treatment and also after death, in the grieving phase .

Currently, according to WHO data, approximately 20 million people are in need of palliative care worldwide. And more than half are over 60 years of age.

What are the principles of palliative care?

One of the philosophies of palliative care is to accept that death is the final stage of life. Therefore, experts do not accelerate or postpone death.

In addition, treatment and therapeutic measures are the focus of palliative care and not the disease itself. Therefore, they respect the will, beliefs and individuality of the person.

The intention is that the terminal patient has the symptoms controlled and also days with quality, surrounded by loved ones. Treatment decisions are focused on the family and well-being of everyone involved.

The following are some of the principles of palliative care.

  • Provide pain relief and other distressing and unpleasant symptoms: it involves the prescription of medications, the adoption of non-pharmacological measures and the approach of psychosocial and spiritual aspects to alleviate the symptoms and provide well-being;
  • Considering death a natural process: encouraging the patient to live with quality of life during the last stages of an illness;
  • They do not intend to hasten or postpone death: palliative care is not associated with euthanasia, that is, causing death to end suffering. Palliative care specialists must accompany the patient and family members and provide support, welcome and respect their wishes;
  • Integrate the patient’s psychological and spiritual aspects: they aim to respect the beliefs and feelings that involve this phase in the most humane way possible;
  • Offer support to help patients live with quality until death: facilitate access to services, medicines and other resources to promote well-being. The multidisciplinary team must facilitate the resolution of the patient’s problems;
  • Offer support to family members to face the disease and grief: the patient’s family and friends also receive support, their needs, peculiarities and anxieties are respected. The suffering of these people is welcomed and respected;
  • Understand and manage distressing clinical complications: provide comfort and reduce symptoms that cause discomfort or pain.

What types?

Palliative care can involve several issues, such as physical, social, psychological and spiritual.

This is because this approach aims to offer comprehensive care to the patient, controlling their symptoms, relieving pain and psychological suffering.

Because of this, palliative care is performed by a multiprofessional team composed of doctors, nurses, nutritionists, physiotherapists, social workers, psychologists, among other professionals.

Check below for details.

Physical

The team of palliative care specialists aims to ensure the patient’s physical comfort. Therefore, pain should be reduced and the malaise caused by the disease or its treatment should be reduced.

Medications may be indicated to relieve symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, bed sores, weight loss, lack of appetite, insomnia , shortness of breath and pain, for example.

Social

It ensures that the patient is well cared for, has family support to help with care during this phase. Also check if there are conflicts or social obstacles that can prevent your treatment from being carried out properly.

Psychological

It helps the patient to face the situation without emotional pain, fears and anxieties, negative thoughts and rediscover the meaning of life.

Spiritual

It recognizes the importance of spirituality as a tool to face the grief of family members and that it also contributes to alleviate the suffering of the patient and promotes quality of life.

Spirituality refers to an inner force that motivates the search for a meaning for life as a whole. And it varies from person to person – it can be found in religion, in art, in philosophy, in contact with nature, for example.

Who needs palliative care?

Palliative care is available for all patients with serious illnesses, regardless of age, prognosis, stage of illness or choice of treatment.

It can be administered at the beginning and during the disease, along with conventional treatments that aim to cure the disease or to prolong life.

Most of the time, they are administered to people with cancer , usually in a terminal phase.

Palliative care can also be indicated to control the side effects of chemotherapy, radiation therapy and to help recover from surgery.

In addition, palliative care also reduces depression , anxiety and other mental illnesses of those who are facing a serious illness.

Palliative care is beneficial for people with diverse health needs and problems such as:

  • HIV / AIDS;
  • Muscular dystrophy;
  • Cystic fibrosis;
  • Multiple sclerosis;
  • Final-stage dementia like Alzheimer’s;
  • Degenerative diseases;
  • Diabetes;
  • Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis;
  • End-stage respiratory disease;
  • End-stage heart disease;
  • End-stage liver disease;
  • End-stage renal failure;
  • Elderly people who are dying from natural causes.

What is the life expectancy of a palliative patient?

Life expectancy varies according to the patient’s illness. Who receives palliative care can live for a few days or even years.

The objective then is to ensure that the patient lives with quality of life and without pain, regardless of the period.

It is known that patients who receive palliative care live longer than those who receive only conventional treatment.

However, it is worth mentioning that palliative care can be administered regardless of life expectancy. Therefore, they can start right after diagnosis to control symptoms and promote well-being as soon as possible.


Palliative care is a way of bringing comfort and affection to those who can no longer benefit from medical or surgical therapies, for example.

Based on a humanized and empathic action, they help the family and the person affected.

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