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Palliative care

What is Palliative Care

What is Palliative Care? Download the PDF

PCNT resource booklet 2020

A guide for carers and families caring for a loved one with a life-limiting illness. Download the PDF

What is palliative care?

Palliative care helps people with any life-limiting or terminal condition to live their life as fully and as comfortably as possible. It is not just for people with cancer.

Palliative care identifies and treats symptoms which may be physical, emotional, spiritual or social. It also provides practical and emotional support to family and carers.

Because palliative care is based on each individual’s needs, support and services will vary. They may include:

  • relief of pain and other symptoms (e.g. vomiting, shortness of breath)
  • resources (e.g. equipment needed to provide care at home)
  • assistance to enable families to talk about sensitive issues or meet cultural obligations
  • referrals to respite care services
  • access to support services (e.g. home help, financial support)
  • emotional, social and spiritual support
  • counselling and grief support

Palliative care may be useful at different stages of an illness, from the time of diagnosis to the final stages of life. It can be given alongside treatments given by other doctors and is available for people of any age, including babies and children.

What health professionals provide palliative care?

A range of health professionals generally work together to provide palliative care. This multidisciplinary team may include:

  • doctors
  • nurses
  • social workers
  • psychologists
  • physiotherapists
  • pharmacists
  • occupational therapists
  • speech therapists
  • nutritionists

Generally, palliative care patients receive all of the care and support they need from this multidisciplinary team. However, some patients with complex symptoms that are difficult to manage may be referred to health professionals with specialist qualifications in palliative care.

How do you access palliative care?

Generally, the patient’s general practitioner makes a referral to specialist palliative care if it is required.

Where is palliative care provided?

Palliative care is provided at home, in a hospital or hospice, and at residential aged or disability care facilities.

Patients and their families are encouraged to decide where they would like palliative care to be provided, and palliative care teams will aim to achieve this when possible.

Many people indicate a preference to die at home. Achieving this depends on:

  • the nature of the illness and amount of care the patient needs
  • how much support is available from the patient’s family and community
  • whether the patient has someone at home who can provide physical care and support for them.

Palliative care explained in 17 languages

Palliative Care Victoria’s brochure about palliative care that has been translated into 17 languages. The brochure answers the following questions:

  • What is palliative care?
  • Who provides palliative care?
  • Where can I receive care?
  • Will I have to pay?
  • What if I need to speak another language?
  • What about my family?
  • Where can I get more information?

 Order printed copies of the brochures, or download electronic versions using the links below.

This information is not clinical advice. Your health care decisions are best made in consultation with your doctor. 

This is one of many resources produced by Palliative Care Australia.


Search the National Palliative Care Service Directory to find specialist care providers near you.

For more information, visit


Palliative Care… It’s more than you think!



ABC Alice Springs Interview with Dr Rosalie Shaw OAM