What is rehabilitative palliative care?

Rehabilitative palliative care empowers people with life-limiting and terminal conditions to actively manage their condition themselves, enabling them to live fully and enjoy the best quality of life possible.

Rehabilitative palliative care in action - a series of images with a patient receiving care from professionals


Rehabilitative palliative care can be defined as follows:

"Rehabilitative palliative care is a paradigm which integrates rehabilitation, enablement, self-management and self-care into the holistic model of palliative care. It is an interdisciplinary approach in which all members of the team, including nurses, doctors, psychosocial practitioners and allied health professionals, work collaboratively with the patient, their relatives and carers to support them to achieve their personal goals and priorities.

Rehabilitative palliative care aims to optimise people’s function and wellbeing and to enable them to live as independently and fully as possible, with choice and autonomy, within the limitations of advancing illness.

It is an approach that empowers people to adapt to their new state of being with dignity and provides an active support system to help them anticipate and cope constructively with losses resulting from deteriorating health.

Rehabilitative palliative care supports people to live fully until they die."

Rehabilitative palliative care IS:

Rehabilitative palliative care IS NOT:

Person-centred: focusing support to best meet people’s goals and personal priorities

Focused on and driven by the allied health professional agenda but led by patients’ priorities
An effective integration of rehabilitation and palliative care to actively enhance people’s quality of life The clash of two contradictory and opposing treatment paradigms

Interdisciplinary and multiprofessional: all members of the palliative care team actively contribute to rehabilitative palliative care

A collaboration between patients, relatives and carers and the multidisciplinary team

The sole domain of allied health professionals: physiotherapists, occupational therapists, dietitians, speech and language therapists, rehabilitation assistants

About optimising people’s ability to function in the widest sense including moving around, eating and enjoying food, communicating with others, managing activities of daily living and participating in meaningful activities

About promoting false hope that someone will recover or return to a previous level of function when this is unrealistic

Just about mobility and walking

About adopting an enabling approach to provide patients and their relatives or carers with enough support to empower them to manage on their own

About being less caring but promotes adopting an enabling approach to the way in which we provide care and having a greater focus on support
A way to give people greater independence, autonomy, choice and dignity About moving away from the ethos and values of palliative care but enhancing these through shared characteristics of rehabilitation

About living with dying

About ignoring dying or pretending it is not happening
Everybody’s business  

Case studies

Access examples of innovation and good practice in rehabilitative palliative care. 

Help with implementing rehabilitative palliative care

Visit our resources page to access a range of tools that will help you implement rehabilitative palliative care at your hospice.

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