What is palliative care?

Palliative care helps people living with a life-limiting illness to live as well as they can by managing pain and symptoms to ensure their quality of life is maintained.

Palliative care is high quality health care and support for people living with a life-limiting illness and their families. Palliative care helps people to live as well as they can by managing pain and symptoms to ensure their quality of life is maintained as the illness progresses.

Palliative care identifies and treats symptoms and issues associated with life-limiting illness which may be physical, emotional, spiritual or social. Palliative care is a family-centred model of care, meaning that family and carers can also receive practical and emotional support.

Palliative care is about maintaining quality of life. The aim of palliative care is neither to hasten nor postpone death. Rather, the focus is on living as well as possible, for as long as possible. Palliative care may include:

  • Relief of pain and other symptoms e.g. vomiting, shortness of breath
  • Medication management
  • Food and nutrition advice and support
  • Care and education to support better mobility and sleeping
  • Resources such as equipment needed to aid care at home
  • Assistance for families to come together to talk about sensitive issues
  • Links to other services such as home help and financial support
  • Support for people to meet cultural obligations
  • Support for emotional, social and spiritual concerns
  • Counselling and grief support for the person with the illness and their family and carers
  • Referrals to respite care services
  • Bereavement care to the family and carers once the person has died.
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Who is palliative care for?

Palliative care is for anyone of any age (from babies to older adults) who have been diagnosed with a life-limiting illness.

Paediatric palliative care is available for children and adolescents diagnosed with a life-limiting illness such as Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, Edwards Syndrome, neuroblastic tumour and acquired brain injury.

Adult palliative care assists people with illnesses such as cancer, motor neurone disease, dementia, chronic heart failure, end-stage kidney or lung disease to manage symptoms and improve quality of life.

Palliative care extends to provide support and advice for family and carers.

Who is in the palliative care team?

Palliative care can be provided by a range of health professionals and other support services. They are supported by specialist palliative care services if symptoms become difficult to manage.

Palliative care teams may include people from a range of health and social support professions and backgrounds including:

  • Doctors
  • Nurses
  • Allied health professionals
  • Social workers
  • Pharmacists
  • Physiotherapists
  • Occupational and speech therapists
  • Psychologists
  • Dietitians
  • Spiritual/pastoral practitioners
  • Palliative care trained volunteers.

Where is palliative care provided?

Palliative care is provided where the person and their family wants to be, where possible. This may include:

  • Within a general practice or primary health care clinic
  • In a person’s home
  • A palliative care outpatients facility
  • In hospital
  • In a hospice (a dedicated health facility caring for people approaching the end of their life)
  • In a residential aged care facility.

How do I get palliative care?

For help and information, or referral to a palliative care service, ask your:

  • Doctor
  • Nurse
  • Allied Health Professional
  • Aboriginal Health Worker
  • Hospital Liaison Officer
  • Social Worker
  • Aged Care Service Coordinator or Care Worker.

For more campaign resources, including PCA’s brochure, What is palliative care?, click here.

There are a lot of common misconceptions about palliative care. Answers to some of the more frequently asked questions can be found here on the Homepage. We hope this will provide a better understanding of palliative care.

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