Palliative care

A person receiving palliative care will have an advanced illness with little or no prospect of cure. The aim of palliative care is to achieve the best possible quality of life for the person and provide support for their family and carers.

Palliative care:

  • affirms life and treats dying as a normal process
  • neither hastens or delays death
  • provides relief from pain and other distressing symptoms
  • integrates the physical, psychological, social, emotional and spiritual aspects of care, with coordinated assessment and management of each person's needs
  • offers support to help people live as actively as possible until death
  • offers support to help the family during the person's illness and in their own bereavement.

Some of the common medical conditions of people requiring palliative care include: cancer, HIV/AIDS, motor neurone disease, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis and end-stage dementia.

Where are palliative care services provided?

Palliative care services can be provided in a range of settings including the home, hospices, aged care homes, hospitals and palliative care units.

Support for carers

Caring for someone approaching the end of their life can be emotionally draining. If you're a carer it's easy to forget to look after yourself too. It is very important to take time to look after yourself, to help you stay fit, healthy and relaxed. Here are some tips to help you take care of your own health and wellbeing. There are also counselling and other support services available to help you.

For more information

For more information on palliative care services, contact your local general practitioner, state or territory health department or community health centre.

The National Palliative Care Service Directory can also assist you to Access information about palliative care services available in your local area.

Other useful resources

Many organisations and programs around Australia provide support for people who are involved with palliative care – whether as a patient, a carer, a family member or a friend.

A few of these organisations are listed below. Click on the organisations' names to visit their websites or contact them directly to find out how they can help you.

  • Respecting Patient Choices – this website provides information on advance care directives.
  • Palliative Care Australia – the peak national body for palliative care. Each state and territory has a local branch. The Palliative Care Australia website includes the National Palliative Care Service Directory. You can contact them on (02) 6232 4433.
  • Multilingual resources – Palliative Care Australia produces online resources about end-of-life care in 21 languages.
  • Palliative Care Knowledge Network – CareSearch - A one-stop online resource for palliative care information.
  • National Palliative Care Service Directory – An online search of organisations that provide palliative care services and support, as well as access to information about these services.

Who else may be able to help?

There are a number of people who may support someone approaching the end of their life and help them to feel as comfortable as possible. Such people might include:
  • doctors, including general practitioners, palliative care specialists and other specialist physicians
  • nurses, including general and specialised nurses in the community, hospitals, palliative care units and aged care homes
  • allied health professionals, including social workers, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, psychologists, pharmacists, dietitians and speech pathologists
  • support workers, such as assistants in nursing, personal care attendants and diversional therapists
  • therapists skilled in music, massage, aromatherapy or colour
  • bereavement counsellors
  • spiritual advisers from different pastoral, spiritual and cultural backgrounds
  • workers who have language skills and knowledge of various cultures
  • Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander health workers
  • volunteers.

Family members are also an important part of the support team, particularly if a person has chosen to receive end of life care in their own home.

Many people find that administrators or business managers can also provide essential support to the end of life care team. Experts in financial planning and legal issues can also provide support.

Need an interpreter?

If you speak a language other than English you can phone the Translating and Interpreting Services (TIS) on 131 450. TIS covers more than 100 languages and is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for the cost of a local call. Alternatively, you can call the National Contact Centre on 1800 200 422 (between 8am and 8pm on weekdays or 10am and 2pm on Saturdays), and we will organise an interpreter through TIS to support the contact centre in communicating with you.
My Aged Care also includes information on aged care in other languages

If you have a hearing or speech impairment?

People who are deaf or who have a hearing or speech impairment can contact My Aged Care through the National Relay Service in two easy steps:
  1. Visit the National Relay Service website  to choose your preferred access point 
  2. Ask for My Aged Care on 1800 200 422.