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Palliative care can help everyone.

Palliative care can help everyone.
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Palliative care

3-minute read

Palliative care is holistic care that aims to improve the quality of life of people who are dying. Palliative care eases symptoms and provides comfort to people, their carers and families. Palliative care works better if it is introduced earlier rather than later in the course of an illness.

What is palliative care?

Palliative care is an attempt to look after all the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of someone with a serious illness that cannot be cured.

It does not mean the end of all treatment. It means making choices about which treatments are important, and which are not.

People can receive palliative care in almost all settings where health care is provided, such as hospitals and general practices, as well as in specialist centres such as hospices, and in their own homes. Most people are cared for by their General Practitioners in partnership with other specialists and community palliative care nurses, in close cooperation from family and friends.

In some cases specialist palliative care services are involved, mainly for people with complicated or severe conditions.

Many palliative care services provide specific support not only for the person who is dying, but also for families and carers.


It is important to understand what palliative care can offer and the range of services available. This will allow you to make better decisions about what kind of care is suitable, where to have it, and when to make a change.

Expert groups advise that even if you are undergoing active treatment, you can still benefit from palliative care, and recommends that doctors and their patients discuss palliative care options. They also recommend that if you have advanced disease, it is important you discuss your prognosis, wishes, values and end of life planning with your doctor.

Another recommendation is that patients coming to a hospital department such as emergency or intensive care needing end-of-life care (palliative care) should, with their family, have a clear plan of the goals of care, as well as their wishes around medical treatment, so this can be discussed with the doctors.

For further information about palliative care recommendations speak to your General Practitioner or visit the Choosing Wisely Australia website.

Finding services

Your General Practitioner, community health centre, or local health department can provide information on palliative care and other relevant care services.

Palliative care services

National and state resources

There are a range of national resources and state resources for people receiving palliative care and their carers - these government and non-government services relate to medical, financial and psychosocial support.

Disease-specific resources

Information from disease-specific organisations.

Are you a carer or helping someone out?

Carers are everyday people who provide unpaid and ongoing care and support to someone they know who has a disability, mental illness, drug or alcohol dependency, chronic condition, terminal illness or who is frail.

Support for carers

Find practical information and useful resources for carers on Carer Gateway. You can also learn more about carers' support and services in your state or territory through Carers Australia.

Last reviewed: April 2017

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