Palliative care is care and support for people with a life-limiting illness. That is, an illness that disrupts your natural life course. This means that you will die sooner than you would have without the illness. The aim of palliative care is to help people live their life comfortably and as fully as possible by supporting their physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs. This includes support for their family and carers.
As your illness progresses there will be changes over time. This means the care you need will change. You may need:
What is palliative care factsheet (672kb pdf)
Palliative care is for people of any age with a life-limiting illness and their families. A life-limiting illness is one likely to cause death in the foreseeable future and can affect people of any age. This includes:
Family can include partners, relatives, friends, or anyone who is considered so by the patient (including pets).
Palliative care can be provided at any time depending on a person’s needs. It is now accepted that combining palliative care with active treatment improves symptom control, quality of life, and family satisfaction.
When you receive palliative care is a decision for you and your family. To learn more visit our page on Referral to Palliative Care.
Palliative care can be provided by many different health and care professionals. In a hospital setting it is provided by doctors, palliative specialists, nurses and allied health professionals. In the community the palliative care team might include the person’s GP, community and aged care nurses, visiting allied health professionals, careworkers and support workers. Family, friends, neighbours and acquaintances will also provide important support. For more on this visit our page on Who Provides Palliative Care?
Palliative care can be provided in hospitals or the community setting. This includes:
Not all people with a life limiting illness need specialist palliative care. Many people can be cared for at home, wherever that might be, and see specialist palliative care staff only every now and again when there is a need.
Being able to stay at home with a serious illness usually requires the help of family members or friends. Older people may be receiving palliative care alongside a homecare package or within a residential aged care facility.
A smaller group of patients and carers may have more complex needs and symptoms that need careful management. In this case there may be the continuing involvement of a specialist team and short or longer stays in a hospice or palliative care ward.
Read the Department of Health National Palliative Care Strategy 2018
Read the Palliative Care Australia National Palliative Care Standards
Watch the Palliative Care Bridge video about The patient perspective - Liz le Noble’s story
Last updated 02 August 2021