Practitioner Support

Caring for people who use substances and are seriously unwell

Many people who use substances do not go to their GP for fear of being judged. So, they do not know how ill they are. Supporting them to get help early can vastly improve their health and well-being.

Palliative care helps people achieve the best quality of life possible towards the end of their life and supports them to have a good, dignified death. Palliative care professionals will help people to manage pain and other symptoms, and support with social, emotional and spiritual matters too. They can make advance care plans and support family caregivers too. 

Supporting people who use substances to get help for their health and social care needs can:

  • Help them maximise their quality of life for their remaining time
  • Help them have meaningful conversations with their families/friends and resolve strained relationships
  • Give them as much control as possible as they approach the end of their lives and provide a more dignified death
  • Support their family caregivers to provide the best care they can and look after their own wellbeing
  • Make sure they are all getting the right support at the right time – and not having to rely on emergency services.

    Practitioners need support too:

    People using substances who are seriously ill have complex needs and dealing with this is stressful – even for experienced practitioners.

    You are not immune to the sadness and loss experienced when someone dies – which may be heightened by the emotions that accompany working with people who use substances. So, you need emotional support, training and regular supervision to keep providing good care.

    The range of support you may need can include:

    • Networking opportunities to meet other health and social care practitioners working with your client group
    • A team approach to providing care (rather than working solo)
    • Regular supervision around loss and bereavement (perhaps from someone outside your organisation)
    • Managers who balance your emotional support needs with the administration requirements of your role 
    • An emotionally supportive network of colleagues who mutually support each other
    • Attending a Death Cafe – an opportunity to discuss what a ‘good death’ means to you

    Practitioner pocket guide

    This guide helps you provide the best possible care and offers suggestions about the support you can access for yourself.

    Videos & Podcasts

    These podcasts have been created by social and health care practitioners supporting people who use substances as they approach the end of their lives.

    Case studies

    Examples of social and health care practitioners providing support to people who use substances and are seriously unwell.

    Get in touch