The 5 stages of palliative care

5 stages of palliative care

A guide to understanding the 5 stages of palliative care

Palliative care, also known as comfort care, refers to a caregiving approach that mainly focuses on mitigating suffering and optimising the quality of life of people who are suffering from a chronic disease or terminal illness. The goal of this form of care is to control symptoms and plan advanced care. The general misconception is that palliative care is exclusively for those who are in the late stages of their terminal illness. In reality, there are 5 stages of palliative care, and these five stages can take place over the course of a few months or several years.

What is palliative care and what are the 5 stages of palliative care?

Palliative care is a form of long-term care that focuses on symptom relief and pain management. This type of care is ideal for people who are living with a chronic disease or suffering from a terminal illness. Palliative care seeks to improve an individual’s quality of life by looking after their physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual needs.

Due to its nature and objective, palliative care is typically provided by a team of healthcare and social care professionals. Also referred to as an interdisciplinary team, a palliative care team is typically composed of doctors, nurses, social workers, visiting or live-in caregivers, psychologists or counselors, and religious or support groups. Some of the standard palliative care services include:

  • Providing medical care and symptoms management.
  • Experimenting with care techniques to promote comfort along with physical and psychological well-being.
  • Supporting family and loved ones with activities of daily living.
  • Offering referrals to medical, emotional, and medical professionals.
  • Planning advance and end-of-life care.

Unlike hospice and end-of-life care, which are designed for patients with a severe prognosis, palliative care can be sought by patients right after the diagnosis or at any stage of the disease.

The five stages of palliative care:

There are five stages of palliative care. Here’s an explanation of each stage that will help you get a better understanding of palliative care.

1. Stable

The first of the 5 stages of palliative care is all about planning and creating the most suitable treatment plan for the patient. In this stage, the palliative care team works closely with the patient and the patient’s family to correctly identify the patient’s medical, physical, and mental needs. The care team may include:

  • Registered nurses along with other healthcare professionals
  • Dieticians
  • Therapists
  • Bereavement counselors
  • Volunteers and social workers

stages of palliative care


The first stage of palliative care can be provided at home. In that case, the home care team will build a strategy and care plan to adequately address the patient’s current health problems and symptoms.

2. Unstable

In this “unstable” stage, the patient’s existing symptoms get worse or they develop new medical issues. But most cases, these new symptoms are unexpected, which is why the palliative care team needs to make urgent changes to the care plan.

In stage two, the need for emotional, mental, and spiritual support tends to increase. So, the care services may have to offer counseling services for issues such as depression and anxiety, and they may also have to arrange leisure activities or religious gatherings.

3. Deteriorating

In the third stage, the patient’s symptoms worsen, causing their overall health and body functions to decline gradually. The patient may also develop severe medical issues, and the palliative care team may need to periodically assess the care plan to meet the patient’s evolving needs.

During the third stage, the patient and their loved ones may experience physical as well as mental distress, and they may need additional emotional support from therapists and counselors. Therefore, the care agency must be ready to meet these needs.

4. Terminal

The fourth stage is called “terminal” because, by this stage, the patient’s condition is so advanced that they may only have a few days to live. The patient may continue to receive medical and physical care at their home, but families and loved ones may choose to admit the patient to a hospital to facilitate extensive medical care. During the fourth stage, patients may exhibit several symptoms including:

  • Reduced appetite
  • Difficulty swallowing food and medications
  • Severe mobility issues causing them to become bedridden
  • The severe prognosis that needs daily medical interventions

what are the 5 stages of palliative care


Besides offering medical care, the palliative care team now focuses on improving the patient’s quality of life through emotional, psychological, and spiritual comfort. Furthermore, the care plan may also include end-of-life care services.

5. Bereavement

At the final stage of palliative care, the patient has already passed. During this stage, the care plan focuses on offering support to the patient’s family and loved ones. Some common bereavement services that are offered during this time include:

  • Psychosocial support from counselors or psychologists helps them deal with the loss and grief.
  • Spiritual support from the rabbi, priest, or pastor
  • Emotional support by helping them connect with support groups

Palliative care services may arrange for these bereavement programs for months or as long as the patient’s family and loved ones need it.

These are the 5 stages of palliative care that you need to know about if you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. The palliative care costs vary during the various stages of care, and they may also differ based on your location.

Get the best palliative care from Total Caring

If you are looking for an experienced and reputed palliative care team, you will find one at Total Caring. Being one of the leading home care agencies in the UK, Total Caring offers the highest quality of care at the patient’s home. If you are looking for experienced caregivers, trained nurses, or other care professionals, you must check out Total Caring.

If you are looking for a seasoned palliative care team to offer their services at home, this is the ideal place for you. Get in touch with us to know more about our palliative care prices and services.

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