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Palliative Care

Palliative care is linked synonymously with the hospice movement, because historically this is where it began, at St Christopher's Hospice in London in 1967. Since then, palliative care is provided within most healthcare settings to a greater or lesser degree.

The word palliative is derived from the latin word 'pallum' meaning to cloak. In other words symptoms are eased but the underlying condition is not cured. The ethos of palliative care is centred around maximising a person's quality of life. This can be achieved in a variety of ways, by effective symptom control, by offering psychological and spiritual support, or by providing respite care to name but a few.

The most important of all, however, is by truly allowing someone to be themselves at what can be an extremely difficult time in their lives. Palliative care strives to acknowledge the whole person - addressing all problems within different aspects of their life. This requires a multi-disciplinary approach where the skills of healthcare professionals are pooled and utilised as necessary.

Flexibility is the key to providing an appropriate service for the needs of the community - most hospices try to achieve this by having both day-care and in-patient facilities. These facilities are accessible to individuals who have cancer, but increasingly Hospices are nursing people with non-malignant disorders such as Multiple Sclerosis and Motor Neurone Disease and other chronic conditions. This highlights the adaptability of palliative care, as the basic principles of the palliative approach can be applied to many other healthcare settings.

It is this transferability which guarantees the growth of the palliative care field, because everyone deserves to live their life to the full.