Palliative Care

A palliative approach to care supports those with life limiting illness, to have the best possible quality of life  by considering all the needs that a person might have. This could be by providing relief to on-going symptoms - whether physical, psychological, spiritual or emotional.  It aims to improve the quality of life of people, whose illness is no longer curable – throughout their disease journey, helping them to live as fully as possible to the end, however long that may be.  

For a person with MS, palliative care might include pain relief, the management of swallowing difficulties, or prevention of pressure sores.  It could also involve supporting the person to plan ahead and make the most of their life, finding ways to participate and get fulfillment from activities of interest and maintain relationships.  Health care professionals are increasingly recognising the importance of adopting a palliative approach to care of people with MS, and also availing of the advice and support of the specialist palliative care team for symptoms that are complex.  

Palliative care can be utilised as a complement to MS comprehensive care; ideally both can be provided in an integrated way to enhance the care that each can offer the person with complex or challenging symptoms and help them plan for their future.  

The palliative approach also provides support to families and/or those who are important to the patient, and extends its reach into bereavement. This holistic approach to care should integrated into the routine care of those with life limiting diseases and available in all care settings – i.e. people’s homes, a hospital or a residential care setting, as well as the actual hospice building. 

Is palliative care or Hospice care available to everyone?

Unfortunately, no.  Modern hospice care and expertise has developed largely around the needs of people with cancer, and for this reason, access to services for people with other illnesses has traditionally been limited.  This situation is gradually improving, especially as regards conditions such as Motor Neurone Disease and Multiple Sclerosis, but access continues to vary from place to place. Specialist palliative care services are provided by the HSE in partnership with voluntary providers. These teams work in community settings, acute hospitals and within specialist inpatient units (hospices). If you or your loved one think that either Palliative or Hospice Care is appropriate you should contact your GP or members of your Primary Health Care team to explore what your options are.

The Irish Hospice Foundation’s Palliative Care for All Programme is currently exploring  how hospice/palliative care can be extended to everyone who needs it, regardless of the nature of their illness – click here to find out more.


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