A Guide to Palliative Care on the Costa del Sol

A Guide to Palliative Care on the Costa del Sol

Palliative care aimed at improving the quality of life for those facing serious illnesses has gained significant recognition and importance in Spain. Image: Shutterstock/ESB Professional

LIVING on the Costa del Sol is a dream come true for many. With its typical Mediterranean climate of 320 days of sunny weather and the accompanying lifestyle, it is clear to see why so many people choose to retire on the coast of Spain. It is important to recognise that challenging times, such as illness, can unexpectedly emerge and, if faced with such circumstances it is important to understand the available options for care and support. Palliative care aimed at improving the quality of life for those facing serious illnesses has gained significant recognition and importance in Spain.

What is Palliative Care?

Palliative care is the treatment of the discomfort, symptoms, and stress of serious illness. It can provide relief from distressing symptoms and improve the overall wellness of the patient and their family. Palliative care takes the person, their life, and their family into consideration not just their illness. This comprehensive and holistic care model addresses physical, emotional, and psychological aspects, providing comfort and support.

Can you Receive Palliative Care at Home on the Costa del Sol?

Some organisations now provide palliative care at home which has many benefits such as:

Comfort and familiarity: Being cared for in the comfort of your own home can help to reduce stress and anxiety, allowing you to remain with loved ones in a familiar environment.

Personalised care: At-home palliative care is tailored to your individual needs meaning you receive the care that is right for you when you need it.

Continuity of care: The same team of healthcare professionals will care for you throughout your treatment, which can help build trust and a more personal relationship.

Cost-effectiveness: At-home palliative care can be more cost-effective compared to a hospice as expenses like room and board are of course not included.

Personalised medical care: This may include pain management, symptom control, and other medical interventions.

Nursing care: This may include wound care, bathing, and other personal care tasks.

Emotional support: This may include help navigating the healthcare system, communicating with family members, grief counselling, and other emotional and spiritual support.

At-home Palliative Care on the Costa del Sol
At home palliative care offers additional advantages to foreign residents. Image: Shutterstock/Monkey Business Image

At Home Palliative Care in Spain

British authorities estimate that there are around 800,000 British residents in Spain approximately 21.5 per cent of those are over the age of 65. Many of those residents live here but their families are still based in Britain. With many people choosing to retire on the coast of Spain at home palliative care offers additional advantages.

Avoidance of cultural barriers: You can receive care in a familiar environment and this can help to communicate with your healthcare providers.

Ease of access: At-home palliative care can be more accessible than hospital care, as you do not have to travel to a medical centre where you may have to wait around in the sweltering heat. This can be especially important for people who are frail or have limited mobility.

Peace of mind: Knowing you are receiving the best possible care in the comfort of your own home can give you peace of mind and your family peace of mind especially if they are based in another country. The added comfort of having a 24-hour phone line to ring during emergencies also offers great peace of mind.

Help to preserve cultural traditions: At-home palliative care can help to preserve cultural traditions and practices that are important to the patient and their family. This can be especially important for people who are from different cultures or who have strong religious beliefs.

Reduce the Burden on Family Members

Family members can provide emotional support and practical assistance, but they may not be able to provide the same level of medical care as a professional healthcare team. At-home palliative care can help to relieve some of the burden on family members, allowing them to focus on providing emotional support.

This case study looked at ‘Life in the Whirlwind’ a pathway forward with palliative care. They studied the impacts of home health care for adults with serious illnesses in particular patients living with dementia. They studied the effects of being a caregiver of a loved one with a serious illness. They identified the importance of providing advance care planning combined with emotional and pragmatic care support and how it can sustain caregivers who are living in these circumstances.

Is Palliative Care Provided by the Spanish State Healthcare?

Depending on where you come from and your status in Spain you can receive some basic state services but there are still some things that patients need to pay for and the palliative care provided is not usually at-home care.

As the United Kingdom is no longer in the EU you can check what you are entitled to by clicking here.

At-home Palliative Care on the Costa del Sol
Explore options for caregivers who can provide in-home support. Image: Shutterstock/Pressmaster

Guidance for Caring for Elderly Parents Living Abroad

Regular Communication: Maintain regular communication through video calls, phone calls, emails, or social media. This helps you stay updated on their health, daily life, and any concerns they might have.

Emergency Contacts and Information: Ensure you have a list of emergency contacts, including neighbours, friends, and local family members, in case your parents need immediate assistance.

Medical Care: Research and understand the healthcare system in their country of residence. Help your parents find suitable doctors, clinics, and hospitals. If language is a barrier, consider hiring a local translator or interpreter for medical appointments.

Health Records and Medications: Keep a record of their medical history, medications, allergies, and any chronic conditions. Ensure they have an ample supply of their medications and know how to take them correctly.

Local Support Network: If possible, help your parents build a support network of friends, neighbours, or community groups in their local area. Having a social circle can alleviate feelings of loneliness.

Regular Visits: Whenever possible, plan visits to spend time with your parents. Face-to-face interactions allow you to assess their well-being more effectively. If it is difficult to visit often think about using other ways to communicate like sending cards or letters and drawings from grandchildren. Arranging a call at a specific time every week can also signal to your loved ones that you are thinking of them and making the effort to keep in touch.

Long-Term Care Planning: Discuss their preferences and plans for long-term care. If needed, explore options for assisted living facilities or caregivers who can provide in-home support.

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Written by

Catherine McGeer

I am an Irish writer who has been living in Spain for the past twenty years. My writing centers around the Costa Cálida. As a mother I also write about family life on the coast of Spain and every now and then I try to break down the world of Spanish politics!