What is the role of palliative care?

Palliative care helps people with cancer to live as fully and as comfortably as possible. It can identify and help you manage physical symptoms, such as pain, but it can also help with practical, emotional, spiritual and social concerns. It can help you live as well as possible right until the end of your life. Because it is a family-centred model of care, family and carers can also receive practical and emotional support.

A team of health professionals, as well as volunteers and carers, work together to offer a range of palliative care services. The services will be tailored to your individual needs, but may include:

  • relief of pain and other symptoms (e.g. nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath)
  • resources such as equipment to aid care at home
  • assistance for families to come together to talk about sensitive or complex issues
  • links to other services such as home help and financial support
  • support for emotional, social and spiritual concerns
  • counselling and grief support
  • support for people to meet cultural obligations
  • referrals to respite care services.

Although it is not just about end-of-life care, palliative care plays an important role in offering symptom relief, support and comfort to people who are dying. The team will also support your family and carers to help them cope during the illness, and after the death.

Your palliative care may be coordinated by your GP, a palliative care nurse or the specialist palliative care team in your area. Specialist palliative care teams see people with the most complex needs, but they can also advise other health care professionals on ways to control symptoms.

Palliative care can be provided in the home, in a hospital, in a palliative care unit or hospice, or in a residential aged care facility. Services vary, however, because each state and territory has its own approach to delivering palliative care.

Read more about palliative care. If you have any questions about palliative care, you can also call Cancer Council 13 11 20, speak to your health care team or contact palliative care organisations.

This information was last reviewed in January 2017
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