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What is palliative care for?

There comes a time when a person living with a serious illness requires early intervention palliative care or is approaching the end of their life and may require additional support. This guide covers what you need to know about palliative care and how to get care.

Last updated: January 11th 2023
Palliative care not only supports patients, but also their friends and families (Source: Shutterstock)

Palliative care not only supports patients, but also their friends and families (Source: Shutterstock)

Key points:

  • Palliative care can begin from the day you are diagnosed with a life-limiting illness
  • The service can be provided in many different settings, including your own home
  • A wide range of medical professionals are involved in the palliative care process

At any stage into a serious illness, the primary goal of palliative care is to provide supportive care and improve the patient’s quality of life by addressing any painful or distressing symptoms.

It can be an important component of the treatment for long-term progressive conditions such as cancer, parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis (MS) and heart disease.

✽ Did you know: Palliative care is also known as comfort care, supportive care or symptom management.

Family and friends won't be forgotten

Palliative care not only supports patients, but also their friends and families. This allows them to make customised plans to reflect their preferences.

Psychological, social and spiritual support, among many others, can be requested.

Bereavement counselling helps family and friends cope during and after the illness.

It’s available in your most suitable setting

The care may be received at home, in hospital, at a care centre, and many other settings.

We’ve made it our mission to show you as many palliative care outlets as possible on our website.

Palliative care has three care levels

Not everyone with a life-limiting illness requires specialist palliative care services.

To help define the level of care patients require, Palliative Care Australia has divided the service into three subgroups:

Care level Advice given by Services given by

1. Primary care

For people who only require services from their primary health care professional(s).

Health care professional(s)
Health care professional(s)

2. Intermediate care

Advice is provided by specialist palliative care services but care is still given by health care professional(s).


3. Complex care

This group requires care from specialist practitioners. They are commonly referred to specialist palliative care services where they will receive the required care.


Hospice helps patients in their final stages

Hospice care is an advanced form of palliative care that is provided when traditional therapies fail to control the disease. At this stage the focus is on caring, not curing.

Not only doctors provide palliative care

Some of the professions include:

  • Palliative care doctors
  • Nurses
  • Social workers
  • Psychologists
  • Pastoral care workers
  • Dietitians
  • Bereavement counsellors
  • Volunteers and coordinators of volunteers
  • Physiotherapists
  • Other therapists (such as speech / music / reminiscence)
Health care worker

Palliative care is available to all Australians in need.

All Australians, regardless of age, living with a serious illness such as cancer or dementia have access to skilled palliative care services.

Did you know that palliative care and end of life care are different? Tell us in the comments below.

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