The 5 Stages of Palliative Care

The 5 Stages of Palliative Care

Palliative care is a specialised type of active, holistic care for patients with serious health related consequences due to severe illnesses. When a loved one uses  palliative care, it is important to understand the high level of care they will receive as they navigate their illness. The goal of this type of care is to provide relief from symptoms while improving the quality of life for both the patient and their loved ones.

There are five main stages of palliative care that represent a progression of possible services for patients and their loved ones as their illness or palliative care needs change. The ultimate goal at each stage is to maximise the quality of life for anyone experiencing the effects of chronic illness. 

As well as relief of physical symptoms, palliative care also emphasises the well-being of the patient, focusing on relieving emotional stress by addressing their cognitive, emotional, and spiritual needs, in addition to their physical and medical needs.

What is Palliative Care?

Palliative care is speciailised care, treatment, and support that helps a patient with a serious or life-limiting illness live as fully and as comfortably as possible. It aims to ease the suffering of patients and their loved ones, and hopefully positively influence the patient’s experience of their illness.

What Qualifies a Person For Palliative Care?

A patient can enter palliative care at any age, from infant to senior citizen, if they have been diagnosed with a serious, chronic, or life-threatening illness. Some patients may enter into palliative care soon after a diagnosis if their condition requires it, while others may not enter palliative care for some time after a diagnosis is made if they are able to maintain their quality of life, though there is always a role for palliative care at any stage. 

What is Included in Palliative Care?

Palliative care aims to provide a patient with the means and support to live the best quality life they can. The levels of care can include:

  • Managing physical symptoms such as pain
  • Providing emotional, spiritual, and psychological support
  • Administering social care such as helping with daily tasks like eating, dressing, or washing
  • Supporting families through talking and processing sensitive issues
  • Counselling and grief support
  • Referrals to respite care services

What Are The Five Stages Of Palliative Care?

There are five main stages of palliative care and understanding these stages may help patients and their loved ones navigate through the process in the best way possible.

The first stage is creating a palliative care plan with the patient and their loved ones, stage two comes when intervention from medical professionals is required, stage three refers to the deterioration of a patient’s symptoms, stage four is preparing for end-of-life care and stage five is providing a bereavement plan for the family members of the patient.

Stage One – Creating a Plan

During the first stage, also known as the “stable phase,” the patient, along with their loved ones, work alongside healthcare professionals to create a palliative care plan. This can include a plan for symptom management and to maintain quality of life as the patient’s illness progresses. At this stage, the patient’s symptoms are still adequately managed by their treatments.

Stage Two – Intervention

Stage two is known as the “unstable phase” and starts when the patient begins to experience symptoms that require intervention from medical professionals. During this stage, the patient may develop new symptoms, problems, or existing issues may increase in severity, requiring an urgent or drastic change to their palliative care treatment. Stage two can often include emotional and spiritual support for both the patient and their loved ones.

Stage Three – Deterioration

Stage three, known as the “deterioration phase,” is when the patient experiences gradually worsening symptoms, new and unexpected medical issues, or could even be the first experience of more serious symptoms. During this stage, loved ones may also experience worsening distress and emotions which require increased emotional support.

Stage Four – Inpatient Care

Stage four involves arranging inpatient care, whether it be at home, in a hospice, or a hospital. End-of-life care is often required during this stage. Patients at this stage may be bed bound and have difficulty with normal day to day functions. They may be disoriented and unable to eat or drink and are likely to require daily health and social needs interventions. Care at this stage is generally focused on physical comfort for patients and the emotional and spiritual well-being of patients and their loved ones.

Stage Five – Bereavement

The fifth and final stage of palliative care is also known as the “bereaved phase.” This occurs after the death of the patient and family members and loved ones may be provided with a bereavement plan. This can extend for many months depending on the personal needs and situations of the individuals involved.

Can A Patient Recover From Palliative Care?

Palliative care can be given alongside treatments that aim to prolong or even cure a serious or life-threatening disease. In these instances, it may be possible for patients to recover and eventually progress out of palliative care. Some illnesses may require a patient to move in and out of palliative care, depending on the severity of their symptoms and how they change over time. Some patients may only ever experience stages one and two of palliative care.

What is the Difference Between End-Of-Life Care and Palliative Care?

Palliative care is not the same as end-of-life care. Palliative care can be received at any stage during a chronic or serious illness and a patient can continue treatment for an illness while receiving palliative care. On the other hand, end-of-life care is an important part of palliative care and is provided at stage four, when a patient is facing the end of their life.

How Do You Organise Palliative Care?

You may request palliative care from any health professional who cares for you, whether it’s your GP, a specialist, or a community nurse. At Maple Community Services, we can work with you for palliative care referrals and help you with the varying levels of care needed during the different stages of your palliative care plan.