- Cancer Information
- Supporting someone with cancer
- Caring for someone with advanced cancer
- Palliative care
You can also be supported in your caring role by palliative care. This is person-centred care that helps people with a progressive, life-limiting illness to live as fully and comfortably as possible. It’s also called supportive care. The main aim is to maintain quality of life by dealing with the person’s physical, emotional, cultural, social and spiritual needs.
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What does palliative care involve?
Palliative care doesn’t mean giving up hope. It is not just for end-of-life care – it may be beneficial for people at any stage of advanced cancer. Palliative care involves a range of services that will be tailored to the person with cancer’s individual needs.
Services may include:
- relief of pain, breathlessness, nausea and other symptoms
- help organising equipment for home (e.g. wheelchairs, special beds)
- assistance for families and carers to talk about sensitive issues
- links to other services such as home help and financial support
- support for people to meet cultural obligations
- counselling, grief and bereavement support
- support for emotional, social and spiritual concerns
- referrals to respite care services.
I only found out about palliative care a few years ago. For me, this made such a positive difference – I now have equipment such as a walking frame, wheelchair, shower seat and toilet seat. My palliative care nurses visit me at home twice a week.Agnes
When to startPalliative care is useful at all stages of advanced cancer and can be provided alongside active treatment for cancer. Starting palliative treatment from the time of diagnosis can help improve quality of life.
Who provides carePalliative care may be coordinated by a GP or community nurse or, if the person’s needs are complex, by a specialist palliative care team.
Where care is providedOptions include 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). 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.
How you can helpCarers 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. But because 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 this, call Cancer Council 13 11 20, or see Palliative care.
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: Caring for Someone with Advanced Cancer
Dr Laura Kirsten, Principal Clinical Psychologist, Nepean Cancer Care Centre, NSW; Mary Bairstow, Senior Social Worker, Cancer Centre, Fiona Stanley Hospital, WA; Anne Booms, Nurse Practitioner – Supportive and Palliative Care, Icon Cancer Centre Midland, WA; Dr Erica Cameron-Taylor, Staff Specialist, Department of Palliative Care, Mercy Hospice, Calvary Mater Newcastle, NSW; Tracey Gardner, Senior Psychologist, Cancer Counselling Service, Cancer Council Queensland; Louise Good, Cancer Nurse Consultant, WA; Verity Jausnik, Senior Policy Officer, Carers Australia; David Larkin, Cancer Supportive Care Manager, Canberra Region Cancer Centre, Canberra Hospital and Health Service, ACT; Kate Martin, Consumer; John McMath, Consumer; Simone Noelker, Physiotherapist and Wellness Centre Coordinator, Ballarat Regional Integrated Cancer Centre, VIC; Tara Redemski, Senior Physiotherapist – Cancer Care, Gold Coast University Hospital, QLD; Dean Rowe, Consumer; Chris Sibthorpe, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Queensland.
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