Advice for families considering palliative care

November 8, 2023 Palliative care

Advice for families considering palliative care

Palliative care is provided by a specially-trained team of doctors, nurses and other specialists who work together with a patient’s other doctors to provide an extra layer of support. Palliative care is based on the needs of the patient, not on the patient’s prognosis. It is appropriate at any age and at any stage in an illness, and it can be provided along with curative treatment. Palliative nursing care is about improving a one’s quality of life which incorporates physical, emotional and spiritual care. It should also include the family, carers or anyone who is important in your loved one’s life.

Create a checklist including the below:

Be prepared to practically support your loved one throughout the day

Depending on your loved one’s condition, you may need to help them with practical and emotional tasks, including:

  • Assisting with activities of daily living (ADLs): Depending on your loved one’s condition, you may need to provide support with essential daily tasks, such as helping them bathe, dress, eat, and use the restroom. Ensuring their physical well-being by assisting with these activities can greatly improve their quality of life and comfort.
  • Medication management and symptom control: If your loved one has a medical condition that requires medication or symptom management, you may play a critical role in ensuring they take their prescribed medicines on time and follow their treatment plan. This may involve maintaining a medication schedule, understanding potential side effects, and recognizing when to seek medical attention.
  • Coordinating healthcare professionals: Your involvement might include liaising with healthcare professionals who visit your home to provide care or treatment. Coordinating appointments, sharing important medical information, and facilitating effective communication between your loved one and their healthcare team are essential responsibilities.
  • Planning social visits: Social interaction is vital for emotional well-being. You may need to organize and facilitate visits with family and friends, as social support can help combat feelings of isolation and loneliness. These gatherings can provide a sense of normalcy and emotional comfort.
  • Addressing worries and fears: It’s important to have open and compassionate conversations with your loved one about their concerns and fears related to their health condition. Listening actively, offering emotional support, and helping them explore coping strategies can alleviate anxiety and stress.
  • Managing finances, life admin, and pets: Handling practical aspects of life, such as managing finances, administrative tasks, and the care of pets, can be burdensome for someone dealing with a health condition. Taking on these responsibilities can ease their daily life and ensure that essential tasks are not overlooked.

Plan for changes

Explaining changes in symptoms

Your loved one’s GP is a highly knowledgeable resource when it comes to understanding the progression of their illness. When you notice any changes in your loved one’s symptoms or an increase in pain, reaching out to the GP is essential. Here’s how this process can work:

  • Timely communication: As soon as you observe any variations in your loved one’s symptoms, promptly contact their GP. Timely communication ensures that any necessary adjustments to the treatment plan can be made promptly. Your GP can provide guidance on whether these changes are expected or require further evaluation.
  • Clinical assessment: The GP can assess the nature and severity of the symptom changes. They may recommend specific tests, examinations, or consultations with specialists to better understand the underlying causes and formulate an appropriate response.
  • Pain management: If your loved one is experiencing increased pain, the GP can offer recommendations for effective pain management strategies. This may include adjustments to pain medications, physical therapies, or other interventions to enhance comfort.

Out-of-hours and weekend support

Healthcare needs can arise at any time, and your GP can guide you on how to access medical assistance outside of regular office hours. Here’s how this can be managed:

  • Emergency contact information: Your GP can provide you with emergency contact information for situations that require immediate medical attention. This could include contact numbers for local urgent care centres, hospitals, or on-call physicians.
  • Advice for non-emergency situations: In cases where the situation is not an emergency but still requires attention outside regular hours, your GP can offer guidance on what steps to take. This might involve scheduling an appointment for the next available time or suggesting home care measures.
  • Communication with on-call providers: The GP can also inform you about how to reach on-call providers or specialists in case you need consultation on weekends or during evenings. This ensures a continuity of care even when the primary office is closed.

Discussions on care and treatment preferences

Your loved one’s GP can be instrumental in facilitating conversations about their care and treatment preferences.

  • Advanced care planning: The GP can guide discussions around advanced care planning, which involves understanding and documenting your loved one’s preferences for medical care. This includes decisions related to life-sustaining treatments, resuscitation, and end-of-life care.
  • Legal documentation: The GP can advise on the creation and proper documentation of legal documents such as advance directives (living wills) and durable power of attorney for healthcare. These documents ensure that your loved one’s wishes regarding their care are respected, even when they are unable to communicate their preferences.
  • Regular review: It’s important to regularly revisit and update these discussions as your loved one’s condition evolves. The GP can facilitate these conversations and assist in making any necessary adjustments to the care plan based on your loved one’s changing preferences.

Friends and family

Friends and family often want to help but may not know how to. Some practical tasks could entail:

  • picking up shopping
  • preparing some meals
  • helping with childcare or looking after pets
  • having a chat on the phone.

How can Cavendish Homecare help?

At Cavendish Homecare we are experts in providing Palliative Homecare for individuals with terminal illnesses who want to return or remain in their own homes. We understand that at such a stressful and sensitive time, specialist private nursing care and trustworthy support can make a huge difference. We work to support the patients, their families, friends, district nurses, palliative teams, and any spiritual needs to support your Palliative care.

If you would like to enquire about our Palliative Care services in London and the Home Counties, contact us on, 02030085210 or email us at

About the Author…

Mairead Liston

Registered Nurse and Founder of Cavendish Homecare

Mairead Liston, a dedicated figure in healthcare, began her journey as a nurse and midwife, laying the foundation for a remarkable career. Driven by passion and expertise, Mairead established a successful nursing agency, serving as a crucial staffing resource for major hospitals in London and the UK.

In 2010, Mairead founded Cavendish Homecare with a mission to provide exceptional care in the comfort of people’s homes. Mairead’s areas of expertise encompass palliative and end of life care, post-operative care, and cancer care, ensuring the delivery of the highest quality of care to her clients.

Her transformative impact is exemplified through prestigious awards, including the ‘Lifetime Achievement’ award and the Chief Nursing Officer in Adult Social Care Silver award, recognising her dedicated service to social care.

By becoming a member of the Guild of Freemen of the City of London, Mairead not only emphasises her active support for both current and future nurses but also plays a vital role in contributing to the ongoing evolution of the nursing profession.

Lady smiling for the camera