Hands crossed on bed

Palliative care

The aim of palliative care is to achieve the best possible quality of life for the person with a life-limiting illness 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. Palliative care can be provided by specialist palliative care teams or by doctors, nurses and carers using a palliative approach to their care.

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 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. 

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 palliative and 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.

Extra assistance

Extra assistance is available if you are hearing and speech impaired, or where translating services are required.

Last reviewed: 30 June, 2015.