How to get palliative care

Palliative care is available for everyone and it should not be difficult to access. A referral from your doctor, medical specialist or other healthcare 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?

Palliative care is provided by a team of medical, nursing and allied health professionals. This team can also work with your doctor to provide services that will help you and your family and carers throughout your illness.

The team may include:

  • doctors and specialists
  • nurses
  • social workers
  • physiotherapists and exercise physiologists
  • occupational and speech therapists
  • psychologists
  • aged care workers
  • trained volunteers

Family members and friends or personal carers can also form part of your care 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. Depending on your individual needs you may not require all these services ─ 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. In some states and territories, you or a family member may also be able to self-refer to palliative care services.

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. If you think you need palliative care discuss this with a member of your health care team.

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.

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.

To consider and document your palliative and end-of-life care needs, you can develop an:

You can start by thinking about things like:                                          

You may have other more specific thoughts, such as:

  • when the time comes, where you would like to be cared for (homehospitalhospice)
  • what does your end-of-life care look like
  • who do you want with you when you die
  • 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.

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