What Are the 5 Stages of Palliative Care?

Do you know what the 5 stages of palliative care are? Read this article to understand how palliative care works and whether it's the right decision for your loved one.

Haisey Home Care
January 18, 2024
x min read
What Are the 5 Stages of Palliative Care?


Palliative care is designed to help you and your loved ones deal with a difficult period in your lives. 

Whether it's a chronic illness, a debilitating condition, or a disability, palliative care can make your life easier.

That's why you need to understand how palliative care works. 

There are 5 stages of palliative care. Every healthcare team follows these steps to provide the best support. 

In this article, we're going to explore these stages one by one. Our goal is to help you understand how each stage can help you and your family on your palliative care journey.

What Is Palliative Care?

Palliative care is a type of care provided to people with serious illnesses. The main goal is to make their life better by providing support in all the ways necessary.

It's not just about treating the illness. It's about making sure the person feels as comfortable as possible. 

Palliative care includes a team of experts who help the patient and their family. They help with managing pain, dealing with emotional stress, and making plans for the diagnosis.

You can start using palliative care as soon as you are diagnosed with a serious illness. It's usually provided alongside other treatments. 

The focus of palliative care lies on:

  • Improving the quality of life
  • Making sure the person is comfortable
  • Supporting their loved ones
  • Making the entire process as stress-free as possible

Palliative care isn't just for those with serious, life-threatening illnesses. People with complex chronic conditions and different disabilities can also use palliative care.

It also isn't only reserved for people who become ill. Palliative care is designed to help the family members of the patient as well. 

The 5 Stages of Palliative Care

When we talk about palliative care, we usually refer to it as a continuous process. But we can also divide this form of care into five distinct stages.

This framework was made by the World Health Organisation (WHO). It outlines the following five stages of palliative care:

  1. Recognition and assessment
  2. Communication and planning
  3. Coordination of care
  4. Provision of palliative interventions
  5. Bereavement support

Keep in mind that these stages aren't necessarily linear. Palliative care often involves an ongoing and dynamic process. 

The stages may also overlap. The need for each stage can vary based on the patient's needs. How their condition progresses can also lead to some changes.

Palliative care is flexible and adaptable. It aims to provide support that aligns with the changing needs of the patient and their family. 

Let's take a look at each stage in more detail.

Stage 1: Recognition and Assessment

The first step of palliative care is recognition and assessment. In other words, it's about creating a care plan. 

When the patient first gets diagnosed, they can apply for palliative care. The need for specialised support must be determined. After that, the care provider must conduct a thorough assessment of the patient's condition.

Healthcare professionals assess the patient's:

  • Physical needs 
  • Psychosocial needs 
  • Spiritual needs
  • Personal values
  • Goals of care
  • Family involvement considerations
  • Financial matters

This assessment is very important when creating a personalised care plan. It should address the patient's unique challenges and changing needs. 

During this stage, the patient can express their preferences. For example, where they want the care to be provided, how often, and what type of care they need. 

Some patients may choose to move to a resident facility. Others may prefer to receive care at home, where they feel more comfortable.

The care team and the patient also need to work out how the care plan will evolve as the illness progresses.

Stage 2: Communication and Planning

The next stage is all about communication and planning.

Open and honest communication is very important in palliative care. Healthcare providers, patients, and their families are encouraged to talk about what is happening.

This is the time to discuss the patient's goals and preferences. It's crucial to provide clear and accurate information about the patient's prognosis. 

Available treatment options are also shared with the patient and their family. This empowers them to make informed decisions about their care.

This step also matters for the patient's care plan. It allows the healthcare team to make any necessary changes. 

The second step is also about preparing emotionally. The healthcare team provides emotional support for both the patient and their loved ones.

Stage 3: Coordination of Care

Stage three is also known as early-stage care.

In this stage, healthcare professionals work together for a holistic and seamless provision of care. 

Palliative care is a team-based approach. It involves professionals from various disciplines. This includes: 

  • Caregivers
  • Primary care physicians
  • Nurses
  • Specialists
  • Social workers
  • Psychologists
  • Chaplains (if requested)

The coordination of care ensures that all team members work together. It's the only way to address the diverse needs of the patient. The goal is to create a supportive network that meets all aspects of the patient's well-being.

Healthcare professionals take a holistic view of the patient's situation. They don't only address the physical symptoms. They also look at the emotional, social, and spiritual aspects of their life. 

This approach leads to a more thorough and supportive care experience.

In some cases, the third stage is also the shift to end-of-life care.

Stage 4: Provision of Palliative Interventions

Stage four focuses on late-stage care.

The next step is to start using the palliative interventions outlined in the care plan. 

Palliative care teams work to manage and ease physical symptoms. This may include pain, nausea, fatigue, shortness of breath, and other symptoms. Caregivers may use medications, therapies, and other interventions.

Pain management is a primary focus. That being said, emotional and psychosocial support is also provided.

During this stage, the focus shifts to improving the patient's quality of life. Caregivers must promote a sense of well-being throughout the course of their illness.

Conversations about hospice care might also occur. This also includes respite care for the family.

In cases where the patient is nearing the end of life, specific interventions take place. This is also known as end-of-life care.

This may involve discussions about the patient's preferences for the dying process. Support for both the patient and their family is to be provided.

Stage 5: Bereavement Support

The final stage is bereavement support. At this stage, the patient has passed away.

This stage extends beyond the patient's passing. It offers support to the patient's family and loved ones during the mourning period.

This support includes:

  1. Counselling services
  2. Help with practical matters
  3. Resources for coping with grief 
  4. Follow-up care

This stage recognises the ongoing impact of loss. It aims to help people deal with the challenging emotional period after the death of a loved one.

Are Palliative Care and End-of-Life Care the Same?

Palliative care and end-of-life care are related concepts. But they don't always mean the same thing. 

They differ in the following aspects:

  1. Focus
  2. Timing
  3. Goals 
  4. Duration
  5. Transition

Palliative care focuses on improving the quality of life for those with serious illnesses. But this support can be given at any stage of their illness, not just at the end of life.

End-of-life care specifically focuses on the last stages of a terminal illness. It's for those who are expected to pass away soon.

When it comes to timing, those with curative or life-prolonging treatments can also receive palliative care. It isn't limited to those with a terminal prognosis.

End-of-life care typically starts when a person has a prognosis of six months or less to live.

The primary goals of palliative care are to relieve symptoms, manage pain, address emotional and psychosocial needs, and improve well-being.

The main goals of end-of-life care are to ensure comfort, maintain dignity, and provide support for the patient and their family during the final days or weeks of life.

Palliative care can be provided for an extended period. It isn't restricted to the final stages of an illness.

End-of-life care often involves a transition to hospice care. This is a specialised form of care for those in the last stages of life.

The 5 Palliative Care Stages

Palliative care doesn't look the same for everyone. But in some cases, it can be grouped into five categories or stages. 

These stages span from the early stages of the illness to the patient's passing. It provides support to not only the patient but their loved ones as well.

If you're looking for palliative care services, Haisey Home Care can help. We offer specialised services to patients with serious and terminal illnesses.

Give us a call if you want to know more about our care services. 

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