What we do

There is hardly anything more tragic for a family than the diagnosis of a severe or progressive illness of a child. It is more than understandable that these families wish for professional help and support when they have to face so many stressful changes. It all changes, not only life itself, the opportunities to develop and the future of the affected child, but also the living situation and the life together of the entire family and of each individual family member. Such a situation is not possible for a child to overcome without the commitment and the support of the entire family. The family is the most important source of support for the patient. Although they are affected and vulnerable themselves, the parents need to emotionally support the patient and the siblings and need to remain capable.

The stress caused by the illness and the treatment is accompanied by strong psychological strain for the affected child and for the entire family. This could lead to traumatisations, mental illness and significant limitation of quality of life. The patients’ physiological, social, emotional and cognitive development is at stake. The entire family has to endure an ongoing psychological extreme situation.

Sterntalerhof sees itself as a harbourage for families who have to face such a situation. Even if there is no prospect of a cure, we would like to provide these children and adolescents, together with their families and in cooperation with the treating expert, chances and possibilities for the highest possible quality of life in a palliative setting. This includes active care regarding their physical, emotional, social, cultural and spiritual needs from diagnosis to death, and even beyond in the grief of the family who stays behind. Quality of life is a dynamic and complex term. There is little solid research on its content or generally approved theories regarding life-limiting illnesses. That’s why it is so important to us to satisfy the needs of the affected families and to focus our actions exclusively on them. What we do can be described as holistic (or whole-hearted) and family-focused support in life, death and grief. 

The framework for our work is IMPACCT: Standards for pediatric palliative care in Europe from 2007. From the first day the family comes to us it is decisive for us to focus on and develop our interdisciplinary approach of holistic assistance in their everyday life attentively and in accordance with the needs of these families.

The core task at Sterntalerhof is and will remain the in-patient care for families of seriously ill children by an interdisciplinary team. By now, our full-time team of experts is supported by volunteers who we educate and train in special courses. In line with comprehensive care for the families who are cared for or who have been cared for at Sterntalerhof, we started with the development of complementary tasks such as mobile and out-patient care. Additionally, integrative grief counselling after the loss of a loved one has become a very important task. 

The diagram below shows what we do and how the individual tasks intertwine, complement each other and guarantee a high level of support for affected families through our “Sterntalerhof network”. A detailed description of our “Sterntalerhof concept" can be downloaded here.