Palliative Rehabilitation

Cathy Payne, Palliative Care Educator, Our Lady’s Hospice and Care Services

“You matter because you are you.  You matter to the last moment of your life.  We will do all we can not only to help you die peacefully, but to live until you die." Dame Cicely Saunders, Founder of the Modern Hospice Movement

Palliative rehabilitation is an approach which considers what individuals living with life-threatening illness most want to achieve in their lives and how they can be best supported to realise their personal goals. It is applicable at the point of diagnosis of an incurable illness until the end-of life. It focuses on supporting the person’s capability, opportunity and motivation to live fully. Therapists such as physiotherapists, occupational therapists, dietitians and speech and language therapists work alongside other members of the health and social care team, offering practical advice and support. Examples of palliative rehabilitation include:

  • Supporting people to be physically active to maintain their muscle strength, balance and flexibility
  • Suggesting strategies to make everyday tasks such as washing, dressing or moving around the house easier, and providing equipment to help with this
  • Supporting people to communicate with their loved ones when they have difficulties speaking
  • Providing guidance to manage eating related problems such as difficulty swallowing, appetite loss or taste changes
  • Helping people to continue to work, pursue their hobbies and maintain social connections which they value
  • Assisting people to express themselves creatively through art, drama, writing or song
  • Suggesting strategies to self-manage symptoms such as breathlessness, fatigue, or anxiety in addition to appropriate medical and nursing care