Children and Adolescents

‘Paediatric palliative care’ aims to provide care and support for a child or teenager who has a life-limiting illness. Palliative care is sometimes also called supportive care. Palliative care can help to provide control of symptoms. These may be due either to the disease itself, such as cancer. They may also be from the treatment of the disease, such as nausea. Palliative care helps patients and families achieve the best possible quality of life.

Paediatric palliative care is available to any child or young adult with a life limiting illness. This may include for example; conditions which may be present at birth or illness which may develop during childhood or the teenage years. Your child may see a palliative care team from birth or infancy. This may then continue for many years. Other children may not need palliative care until they are older. They may only need palliative care for a short time.

If your child needs palliative care this doesn’t mean that they won’t have any treatment. Sometimes treatment aimed at prolonging life and palliative care may be required at the same time. You will be an important part of this process and the decisions associated with planning the goals of care. You will be given support through this final stage of your child’s illness and their death. You will also be supported after they have died.

Children and teenagers are different to adults. Sometimes this relates to a child’s stage of development. This influences all aspects of a child’s care including:

  • His/her understanding of illness and death
  • Their ability to communicate
  • Their ability to participate in making decisions
  • The way a child’s body responds to and is affected by medications and other treatments.

Another important part of your child’s care is family. You are central to his or her life. Health professionals ensure that paediatric palliative care is always family focused. It centres on the unique needs of the child and the members of their family. This includes parents, brothers and sisters, grandparents, friends and other significant people.

Paediatric palliative care is usually provided where it best suits the individual family’s needs. This may be in hospital, hospice or home care or a combination of these as required.

  • Palliative Care Australia has developed a paediatric palliative care resource called Journeys - palliative care for children and teenagers. (2010) This is an information resource designed to prepare families and their children for the many situations and issues they may face as they live with their child’s illness. It also provides information about available resources in each state or territory. There is specific information for families living in rural and remote areas, families from culturally diverse backgrounds and Indigenous families.
  • The Healthy Voices, the journal of Consumer Health Forum of Australia has an article on palliative care for children (1.08MB pdf).
  • From the Queensland Government: Palliative Care for Children with Cancer - A Guide for parents (1MB pdf)

State paediatric palliative care services

Last updated 21 November 2018