As with palliative care for adults, palliative care for children and teenagers focuses on enhancing quality of life by addressing physical, practical, emotional and spiritual needs, and supporting the family. The team must also consider how the young person’s stage of development affects all these needs.
Because there may be uncertainty about the course of a child’s illness, elements of palliative care are often introduced early and combined with treatment that aims to actively treat the cancer.
Palliative care for young people involves health professionals with specialised skills in paediatrics (the care of children), as well as palliative care experts. Most children’s hospitals have some specialist paediatric palliative care services, which may provide care directly or advise the young person’s health care team.
Depending on their circumstances, young people can receive palliative care at home, in hospital, or in a paediatric palliative care unit (hospice).
There are a number of organisations that specifically support young people with cancer and their families by providing palliative care, financial assistance, counselling, resources and respite care. These are listed below.
The hospital social worker can also provide support, and may know of other useful networks in your local community.
CanTeen is an organisation for young people aged 12–24 affected by cancer. It provides an interactive online forum and resources on palliative care and end-of-life issues. CanTeen also runs camps and other activities. Visit canteen.org.au or call 1800 226 833.
Camp Quality supports children aged 0–13 living with cancer, and their families, at each stage of the cancer journey, including palliative care. Its services include camps, one-off house cleaning and holiday respite. Visit campquality.org.au or call 1300 662 267.
This charity supports young people and their families through cancer by providing emotional guidance (including bereavement support), financial assistance and educational services. For more information about Redkite’s services, talk to the social worker at the hospital, visit redkite.org.au or call 1800 733 548.
Palliative Care Australia
Palliative Care Australia is the peak national organisation for palliative care. It has produced a detailed resource, Journeys, to help families and carers prepare for situations they may face during their child’s illness. To access the resource, visit palliativecare.org.au/teenagers-and-children.