- Cancer Information
- Advanced cancer
- Facing end of life
- Where to die
- Dying in a palliative care unit or hospice
Dying in a palliative care unit or hospice
Specialised palliative care facilities may be called palliative care units or hospices. Some hospices have rooms within a hospital. Palliative care units focus on caring for people with a life-limiting illness and aim to maintain quality of life. They are run by health professionals who specialise in providing physical and emotional comfort to the patient, and supporting the family before and after the death.
Palliative care units and hospices are different from most hospital wards. They are usually quieter and calmer, and have a more homely environment. Many people value the relaxed surroundings, as well as the skilled staff and expert symptom management.
Learn more about:
- Palliative care unit or hospice: what are the benefits?
- What do palliative care facilities offer?
- When to contact a palliative care facility
- Offers a welcoming and comfortable physical environment.
- Provides 24-hour care with expert pain and symptom control.
- Focus is on quality, not length, of life.
- Allows the patient and their family and friends to focus on being together.
- Direct access to a team of professionals and volunteers trained to meet the needs of the dying person, and carers.
- Carers can leave at the end of the day and get some rest.
- Some families prefer not to live in a house where someone has died (although others find this a comfort).
These facilities often provide short-term respite care as well as longer-term care for the dying person. Sometimes you can go back and forth between a palliative care unit and another setting during your final weeks. Many now have a maximum length of stay, so you may want to check this with them ahead of time.
You may choose this option if you want to relieve your family from caring for you while you are dying, although they can still be involved. This can include feeding, bathing or simply being present.
Some people and their family and friends are unsure of when to contact a palliative care unit. They may wait to call until the final days, possibly missing out on the support that a palliative care unit or hospice has to offer. Some facilities have waiting lists, so talk to your palliative care team about when would be an appropriate time to make the first contact.
Dr Megan Ritchie, Staff Specialist Palliative Medicine, Palliative Care Service, Concord Repatriation General Hospital, NSW; Gabrielle Asprey, Cancer Support Consultant, Cancer Council NSW; Rosemary Cavanough, Consumer; Louise Durham, Nurse Practitioner, Metro South Palliative Care Service, QLD; Tracey Gardner, Senior Psychologist, Cancer Counselling Service, Cancer Council Queensland; Karen Hall, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Linda Nolte, Program Director, Advance Care Planning Australia, VIC; Rowena Robinson, Clinical Advisor, Palliative Care Australia, ACT; Helena Rodi, Program Manager, Advance Care Planning Australia, VIC.
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