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Palliative care

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Palliative care deals with managing symptoms. It can be used in a number of different situations, not just at the end of life.

Palliative care is about improving quality of life so that patients can live as comfortably as possible. It is about the individual needs of patients and their families.

What you need to know

How can palliative care help?

The main emphasis in palliative care is symptom control. It can help to manage symptoms like:

  • pain
  • shortness of breath
  • nausea and vomiting
  • constipation.

The palliative care team can also help with:

  • emotional, physical, social and spiritual support for patients and their loved ones
  • referrals to community and respite services
  • equipment that may be required at home
  • support for cultural and religious practices
  • family support to discuss sensitive issues
  • counselling and grief support
  • deciding what care you want in the future (advance care planning).

Palliative care supports people to make the most of each day and focus on the things that are important to them. It helps them identify their end-of-life wishes, and any plans they want to complete. 

The palliative care team

Palliative care is based on each patient’s individual needs and requests. The team can include:

  • palliative care physician
  • general practitioner
  • other doctors
  • nurses including community nurses
  • social worker
  • psychologist
  • physiotherapist
  • dietitian
  • pharmacist
  • occupational therapist
  • speech pathologist
  • pastoral care or spiritual advisors
  • volunteers.

The palliative care team care for patients in a holistic way. You can talk to them about your cultural and religious beliefs and your preferences so that they can personalise your care.

What to ask or talk about

Finding palliative care services

To get more information about palliative care, you can ask your GP, specialist, nurse or another health professional involved with your care. The Palliative Care Australia website also has a directory of palliative care services.

Care from a palliative care team can be given:

  • at home
  • in a hospital
  • in a hospice or palliative care unit
  • in an aged care facility.

 Most palliative care services are free. There may be some costs if you are treated in a hospital or hospice. 

Where to get help

There are people you can talk to for more information or support.

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