Palliative care

As a carer, you can be supported in your role by palliative care. This involves a range of services offered by nurses, doctors and allied health professionals, as well as volunteers. It is a team approach that addresses the person’s physical, practical, emotional, spiritual and social needs.

Palliative care aims to help people with a life-limiting illness to live as fully and comfortably as possible. It doesn’t mean giving up hope – in fact, it can improve quality of life at any stage of advanced cancer and can be given alongside other cancer treatments.

When to start palliative care 

You can ask your treatment team for a referral to palliative care as soon as advanced cancer is diagnosed. Even if you don’t want to access the services right away, it can be reassuring to understand what support is available. Many people say that they wish they had been referred to palliative care earlier.

How palliative care is provided 

Palliative care may be coordinated by a GP or community nurse or, if the person’s needs are complex, by a specialist palliative care team. It can be provided at home supported by a community palliative care service, in hospital, in a palliative care unit (hospice) or at a residential aged care facility (formerly called a nursing home).

The palliative care team will help you and the person you’re caring for work out the best place for their care. Sometimes people spend a short time in hospital or in a palliative care unit to help get their symptoms under control and then return home again.

Your role 

Carers are considered part of the palliative care team. If you have been providing most of the person’s care, it can be difficult to let other people take over some tasks. However, it is important to realise that the caring demands are likely to keep increasing as the cancer progresses. Accepting help can mean you can spend more quality time with the person you’re caring for.

For more on palliative care, call Cancer Council 13 11 20, download Understanding Palliative Care from this page, or see Palliative care.


Listen to podcasts on Cancer Affects the Carer Too and How to Help Someone with Cancer


This information was last reviewed in September 2017.
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