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Where is palliative care provided?

Palliative care can be provided in a variety of settings. You and your family can decide what suits your situation best.

Where is palliative care provided?

When possible, you and your family can decide where you want to receive palliative care. This may include:

  • at home
  • in hospital
  • in a hospice
  • in a residential aged care facility

You may also move between these different settings as your needs change.

Most people would prefer to stay at home if they can. However, you may need care at a hospice or hospital for one or more of the following reasons:

  • to manage your symptoms like severe pain and nausea
  • your medical or other needs may become complex and specialist care is more readily available
  • your family or carer may need a break
  • you or your carer may decide that you can’t be cared for at home as you approach the end of your life

Home care

Many people would prefer to die at home. Making this possible often depends on several factors, including:

  • the nature of your illness and amount of care you need
  • how much support is available from family and the community
  • whether you have someone at home who can provide physical care and support

Specialist community service providers attend to your palliative care needs at home. These programs are flexible so they can meet your needs and the needs of your carers and family.

Speak to your doctor about palliative care providers in your local community. Specialist palliative care providers have a range of services but you may not need all of them. Often one of these people may be the coordinating person you mostly deal with.

Hospital care

If your condition changes, gets worse or becomes complex, you may need care in a hospital.

Specialist palliative care staff work in many major public hospitals. They work together with your community palliative care service to assess and manage your palliative care needs.

You may need to have medical treatment in a hospital as part of your ongoing palliative care. You also may need to have palliative care while you are recovering from surgery.

Often you can return home after a period of inpatient care.

Hospice care

Inpatient palliative care units (hospices) will care for you when staying at home is no longer an option. Hospice units are designed to feel as ‘homely’ as possible. You are always free to bring in items from home to make your stay more comfortable.

There are usually no limits on visiting hours in a hospice. Your family and friends can spend as much time with you as they like. They can also help with your care. Some units provide space for a family member or friend to stay overnight.

Hospices may also have facilities like lounges and televisions, kitchens, meditation rooms, internet access and gardens. You can continue with any particular interests or hobbies in your hospice.

Some hospices may have a small number of rooms within a hospital. Other units might be part of residential aged care facilities (nursing homes). Most palliative care units offer single rooms, but this may not always be the case. It is best to talk to the hospice staff about what available options you have.

A specialist palliative care doctor will manage your medical care in the hospice. This can happen along with other specialist palliative care health professionals and your GP. You will also be able to continue seeing any other health care professionals you were seeing at home. These may include a counsellor, nurse or social worker.

Aged care facility

Depending on your needs, your doctor may suggest that you move into a residential care home. By moving into a residential aged care home or disability accommodation you will get the longer-term care you need. These homes will also be able to manage your end of life care needs.

Residential aged care homes sometimes have a doctor or specialist nursing staff. The residential care home can also involve the community palliative care service in your area to provide specialist care.

For residential aged care you will need an assessment by the Aged Care Assessment Service. For more information see the aged care homes fact sheet.

Making the decision to leave home for palliative care

Deciding when to move into a residential aged care home, a hospice or a hospital is not always easy.

It is a good idea to talk through the different possibilities with your family and your doctor. If your condition deteriorates, or your family or friends can no longer care for you, you may need to consider other options for your care.

You can document your preferences and wishes for care in an advance care directive.

Last updated: 
8 July 2019

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