How to get palliative care
Palliative care is available for everyone and it is not difficult to access. A referral from your doctor, medical specialist or other health provider is often all you will need. To get the palliative and end-of-life care you need, it is a good idea to start planning now.
Who provides palliative care?
A team of medical, nursing and allied health professionals will usually provide your palliative care. This team can also work with your doctor to provide services that will help you, your family and carers throughout your illness.
The team may include:
- doctors and specialists
- social workers
- occupational and speech therapists
- trained volunteers
Family members and friends or personal carers can also form part of your team.
You will have regular appointments with the health professionals in your team. This is so they can monitor you and adjust your care if needed. You won't necessarily see all the people listed ─ some roles overlap and support varies across Australia.
How to access palliative care
Palliative care can be accessed through a referral from your local doctor (GP), medical specialist or other health provider.
Palliative care is available to anyone with a life-limiting illness, not just cancer patients. People living with dementia, chronic conditions or degenerative conditions can access palliative care services.
To find a service in your local area go to the palliative care national service directory.
What to do next?
If you haven’t thought about your end-of-life care options, now is a good time to start. Once you have thought about it then you can start planning.
Sorting out care earlier rather than later will reduce stress on you and your family. It will give you time to better understand and manage any physical symptoms (such as pain or nausea). It will also allow you time to consider your practical, emotional and spiritual needs.
You can start by thinking about things like:
- what do you want for your end-of-life care
- do your loved ones know what you want for your end-of-life care
- who would make decisions about your end-of-life care if you were no longer able to
You may have other more specific thoughts, such as:
- when the time comes, where you would like to be cared for (home, hospital, hospice)
- what does your end-of-life care look like
- who do you want with you when you die
- what would your advance care plan and/or advance care directive contain
- who would be your substitute decision-maker if you are not able to speak for yourself
It is important to feel like you have control over the planning for your end-of-life care. That is why starting the conversation early is the best idea.