Palliative care is coordinated care provided by specialist doctors, nurses, volunteers, social workers and spiritual care workers. The goal of palliative care is to provide care and support so that people who are ill can live as fully and comfortably as possible.

Palliative care:

  • combines medical, nursing, psychological, social and spiritual care so that people with life-threatening illnesses may come to terms with what's happening to them
  • provides relief from pain and other distressing symptoms
  • doesn't prolong treatment when it's no longer beneficial
  • doesn't include deliberate ending of life
  • offers a support system to help families and friends cope during a person's illness and in bereavement
  • aims to help the person and their family be in control of their treatment and their quality of life
  • can be provided in the home, a hospital or a hospice setting.

Once when my husband was really ill, the general practitioner asked him if he'd like the palliative care service to visit. He said no. When the doctor mentioned that it may be helpful for me, he accepted straight away. My husband really liked their visits and opened up to them.

If you're not linked in with a palliative care service and would like to be, speak to the doctor or nurse or contact the service directly. In Victoria, each palliative care organisation covers a particular geographic area, so you'll be visited by the organisation that serves your area.

Palliative care at home may be provided by the service or by district nurses in conjunction with the palliative care service.

With the palliative care nurse, you will choose which palliative care workers will be involved and how often they visit. This will vary according to needs and how you're managing.

It was a real weight off my shoulders when the nurse started visiting at home. I couldn't believe how much they helped me.

Palliative care services work with your local doctor and the treatment team from the hospital or clinic – they don't take over all the care and treatment decisions.

Palliative care services often can include visits from a trained volunteer support worker.

You can ensure that all of these people communicate well by providing names, addresses and telephone numbers of all the health care professionals involved. The list could be quite long: it may include an oncologist, radiation specialist, surgeon, local doctor and key nurses from an outpatient clinic. It is better to have a long list than miss someone.

A hospice is a place that provides residential palliative care services. It has hospital facilities but a homelike atmosphere, where trained staff care for people with life-threatening illnesses. A person may go into a hospice to have pain or other worrying symptoms brought under control, to give the person caring for them a break, or to spend their last days or weeks.

Many people go into a hospice for a short time and then return to their home.

In general, palliative care services are free. There may be a charge for hire of some equipment for home care.

Last Reviewed: 28/02/2010

Reproduced with kind permission from the Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria.


Cancer Council Victoria. February 2010. Palliative care. (accessed Jan 2013).