What is palliative care?
Palliative care is person-centred care that helps people with a progressive, life-limiting illness to live as comfortably as possible.
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The role of palliative care
The main goal is to help you maintain your quality of life by dealing with your physical, emotional, cultural, social and spiritual needs. This type of care can help from the time of diagnosis, and can be given alongside other cancer treatments. Palliative care also supports families and carers.
Who provides care?
A palliative approach to care may be delivered by doctors, nurses, allied health professionals, volunteers and carers. Together these people make up your palliative care team. Your care may be coordinated by one member of the team who communicates with you.
People with more complex and ongoing needs may see a specialist palliative care service. This service is provided by a team with extra training and it can also provide advice to other health professionals. These specialist services can be accessed through many public and private hospitals, palliative care units and community-based palliative care providers. Not everyone needs specialist palliative care.
Depending on what services are available where you live, you can have palliative care at home, in a community setting such as a residential aged care facility, in a hospital or a specialist palliative care unit.
Person-centred care is care that treats you in the way you’d like to be treated and listens to your needs, preferences and values, as well as the needs of your family and carers. It means that your health care provider will involve you in planning your treatment and ongoing care.
What care is available?
Palliative care offers a range of care and support options that can be tailored to meet your individual needs in five areas.
This may include: relief of symptoms such as pain, breathlessness and nausea; help with medicines; help with movement; suggesting changes around the house to make things easier and safer; and referrals to services to give your carer a break for a short period of time (respite care).
This may include support for families and carers to: talk about the changes advanced cancer brings and other sensitive issues; plan for the future about what type of care you may need and where you would prefer to receive care; work through feelings and referral to counselling; and help you cope with loss or grief.
This can include ensuring care is culturally sensitive and appropriate.
This can: help you achieve your goals, such as how to get the most out of each day; assist with day-to-day needs; provide advice on financial issues; and help identify or set up a support network.
This involves support for your spiritual concerns, such as finding meaning, purpose and value in life.
Video: What is Palliative Care?
Watch this video to see how palliative treatment aims to manage symptoms and improve people’s quality of life without trying to cure the disease.
Podcast for people affected by advanced cancer
Dr Cynthia Parr, Specialist in Palliative Care, HammondCare and Macquarie University Hospital, NSW; Dr Lisa Cuddeford, Clinical Lead, WA Paediatric Palliative Care Service, WA; Dr Laura Kirsten, Principal Clinical Psychologist, Nepean Cancer Care Centre, NSW; Penny Neller, Project Coordinator, National Palliative Care Projects, Australian Centre for Health Law Research, Queensland University of Technology, QLD; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; A/Prof Peter Poon, Director, Supportive and Palliative Care, Monash Health, and Adjunct Associate Professor, Monash University, VIC; Dr Kathy Pope, Radiation Oncologist, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Kate Reed-Cox, Nurse Practitioner National Clinical Advisor, Palliative Care Australia; Juliane Samara, Nurse Practitioner, Clare Holland House – Specialist Palliative Aged Care, Calvary Public Hospital, ACT; Annabelle Solomon, Consumer; Silvia Stickel, Consumer; Kaitlyn Thorne, Manager, PalAssist, Cancer Council Queensland; Kim Vu, Consumer; Rosie Whitford, Social Worker – Grief, Bereavement and Community Palliative Care, Prince of Wales Hospital, NSW.
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