Palliative care: tending to people at the end of their life


Who provides assistance when a loved one is dying? Various services can help family members with their care duties and in coming to terms with death.

What is palliative care?

Palliative care refers to all measures that alleviate the suffering of terminally ill patients and provide them and their family members with the best possible quality of life right to the end.

Tending to people at the end of their life

Dealing with the pain of losing someone and at the same time wanting to give them the support they need during the final stage of their life is a tough challenge. This makes it all the more important for family members to know where to find help, not only in terms of care services, but psychological support too.

Tending to people at the end of their life: these are the possibilities

Tending to people at the end of their life isn't easy for family members. In many cases they reach their limits too. Coming to terms with death and being supportive and present for the person at the same time are challenges that merit assistance. There are various possibilities.

Early palliative care

Integrating palliative care measures at an early stage into the treatment of chronically ill people and planning ahead have many positive effects for the patient and family members as well as for the healthcare system:

  1. reduced suffering
  2. fewer emergency admissions to medical centres
  3. a better understanding of the disease
  4. increased quality of life until the end

Long-term care

Sometimes it’s no longer possible for a sick person to manage all their daily tasks alone at home. Long-term care refers to the care and support of patients over a longer period of time in an institutional setting.

Care at home

With the help of Spitex and often a specialised mobile care service, treatment and support can be provided in the patient's own home for a long time – individually, personally and privately.


Palliative care is also possible in a hospice – if one is available. Beforehand, it’s not only advisable but important that patients clarify their own personal values, wishes and needs in conjunction with their family. For this purpose, it helps to fill out the advance healthcare directive form together.

Palliative care for children

Paediatric palliative care (PPC) refers to the care of children with a life-limiting or chronic disease: comprehensive care for such diseases in childhood and adolescence aims to raise the quality of life of the children, parents, siblings and other relatives. Paediatric palliative care can be initiated even before birth.

Pro Pallium Foundation

How can family members help best?

In life’s difficult phases and moments, being there is the most important thing. Discussing and defining personal wishes, values and expectations and incorporating them into an advance healthcare directive is also a very valuable, clarifying process – both for the people affected and for their family members and authorised representatives.

Help and support for family members

Building a good awareness of your own needs is important and helps to avoid an overload on family caregivers. This includes:

  • observing yourself
  • knowing and recognising your own limits
  • respecting boundaries and seeking help where necessary

Situational support with the possibility to turn to a competent counsellor or contact person if you have questions or problems is worth its weight in gold.

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