When a patient enters the palliative phase of his illness, his life perspective changes. He has often had curative treatment for a while (cancer, COPD, heart failure), but sometimes the palliative phase starts at the same time as the diagnosis (cancer with metastases). In any case, he faces the task of living with a different perspective: healing is not possible, the end is approaching. Many patients recover after the shock. They try to use the time they have left for things that are important to them. Many people find it important to maintain control over large and small daily decisions. For example, they want to decide for themselves on palliative chemotherapy and on the activities that they are (still) able to undertake. Yet there comes a time when caregivers take over tasks from the patient, such as collecting medication. At a later stage, caregivers often also take over contact with the doctor from the patient.
Family and caregivers go through a process that is comparable to that of the patient. They too are shocked and are overwhelmed by a sense of loss. Informal caregivers can offer the patient practical, social and emotional support. When the informal care comes down to one or two people and the care becomes increasingly heavy, they can become overburdened. This can manifest itself in sleeping problems, stress complaints and physical complaints.