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Palliative care is holistic care that is person and family-centred, provided for a person with progressive, advanced disease. Often misunderstood, the true goal of palliative care is to help people who have a life-limiting illness live their best possible life, as comfortably as possible. Palliative care is also extended to the family and carers to help them cope during the person’s illness and in their own bereavement. This is achieved by specialist teams who provide care for practical, physical, emotional, spiritual and social needs.

Palliative care is not exclusive to end-of-life care. It helps people who live with a life-limiting illness to live as fully and as comfortably as possible. Care is extended to family and carers.

Palliative care can support people from the earlier stages of their disease, through periods of fluctuating health, and when their health deteriorates towards the end of life. Care during the terminal phase of the illness where death is imminent can extend to bereavement care following death. Research suggests that early integration of palliative care with standard care can produce better outcomes such as ongoing relief of symptoms, reduced feelings of isolation, reduced presentations to hospital and increased likelihood of remaining at home during the end-of-life stage. The provision of palliative care is not limited to the hospital setting, and can also be provided in the home, residential aged care facility or hospice. Speak with your doctor, nurse, hospital contact liaison or Aboriginal Health Worker to access palliative care.

What are palliative treatments?

Palliative treatments are tailored to the individual and carers’ needs. The package of treatments including the type, number and frequency of treatments can change over the course of time as the impact and implications of the illness evolve. Find out more about common treatments and supports in palliative care below.

Breathlessness management

Medicinal and non-medicinal strategies to reduce secretions and the perception of breathlessness may be considered.

Pain, fatigue & other symptom management

Management plans including different types of medications as well as rehabilitation and/or complementary therapies can be made.

Medication management

A medication review might be conducted to reduce care burden and/or side effects.

Dietary advice & support

The aims of nutrition are to reduce discomfort from thirst and hunger, and improve quality of life.

Sleep assistance

Medication review and sleep hygiene practices could be indicated for sleep disturbances.

Daily activities & environment modifications

Strategies that may use equipment to support daily activities like personal care and mobility are guided by occupational / physiotherapists.

Connection to services

Links to social, practical and financial supports typically coordinated by a social worker, palliative care nurse or occupational therapist.

Meeting spiritual & cultural needs

Spiritual care workers are trained professionals who can support both religious and non-religious individuals.

Counselling & guidance

Support is offered to help manage the emotional well-being of individuals and families and to discuss sensitive issues.

Future planning

Assistance with making an advanced care plan / directive.

Read an overview about palliative care and access links to resources, support, and state-based organisations. Learn about funding schemes and equipment providers in Australia.