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What is palliative illness?

I have had conversations recently about what palliative means and if it is the same as terminal so I thought I would try to explain. Marie Curie describes it as a life-limiting illness that can't be cured and you are likely to die from. Some examples of these are advanced/ metastatic/secondary cancer, Motor Neurone Disease, Pulmonary Fibrosis, Dementia, Heart or other major organ failure.

Some hospices use the word terminal illness in a their literature to describe these illness. However, lot of people, particularly people with these illnesses, find the word terminal a difficult word to use, as it is often associated with the end of life, as in 'the terminal phase of life,' and this is not where they see themselves. This was discussed on a recent podcast 'And then came breast cancer' by @Futuredreamscharity and @makesecondscount, and the speakers spoke about how they felt the word 'incurable' described their secondary breast cancer better.

Children's Hospices Across Scotland (CHAS) use the word 'life shortening' and I have often used 'life limiting' in place of palliative illness, but they are all synonymous.

We also know that in the last 10-15years, there have been huge medical advancements in the treatment of these illnesses and life expectancy has increased in the majority of them, therefore perhaps ‘terminal’ isn’t the most accurate terminology to use as people may live with these illnesses for some time.

I think however, it is important to point out that if you have one of these illnesses, these words don't define you, or have bearing on the quality or length or your life and what words people decide to use to describe their illness is very much a personal choice. What we do know is that when Hospice UK asked people with these illnesses what was important to them, the most common answers were maintaining independence, keeping active, staying as well as possible.

Both yoga and physiotherapy have proven benefits in helping the symptoms of palliative illnesses and in keeping active and maintaining independence so if you are interested in finding out more, check the link in my bio.

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