End of Life and Palliative Care

End of life and palliative care
What is End of Life Care?

Often, when talking about end of life care, we are talking about care during the last 12 months of a person’s life. It can be a longer or shorter time than this – there is no set timeline.

Towards the end of a person’s life, they may need more care because of an illness or old age. Everyone’s needs are different. It’s important that you are given care that is right for you and your values.

What is palliative care?

Palliative care is care that can help anyone who has a serious incurable illness or very frail. It focuses on quality of life for a person with a life limiting illness and includes symptom management, family support, end of life care and bereavement support.

Palliative care does not mean you are at the end of your life. It helps you have the best quality of life, no matter what other treatments you are being given. Palliative care can:

  • help you have the best quality of life for as long as possible
  • make sure your physical, social, cultural and spiritual needs are met
  • support your family and carers
  • help you make decisions about your care.

Palliative care can be separated into primary palliative care which is also referred to as end of life care, and specialist palliative care. You may hear the term Comfort Care in some settings. This refers to the care that is provided as part of end of life and palliative care.

Everyone has a right to receive palliative care and good end of life care. This care is delivered in a number of places and your GP is the first point of contact for this care.  

Specialist palliative care is delivered when symptoms and situations are complex in nature. These services are available at home or residential aged care facility, as an outpatient appointment or in the specialist palliative care unit. 

In hospital most people have end of life care provided by their ward treating team. Where symptoms are not able to be managed by the ward teams, specialist palliative care services are available to assess patients and support the ward treating team with guidance on the most appropriate care.

When can I use palliative care?
  • you can have palliative care when you are diagnosed with a serious incurable illness and your doctor feels you may need extra support to help manage your symptoms and quality of life
  • you can have palliative care alongside of your other treatment such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and antibiotics
  • Palliative care can also help make your quality of life better when you are nearing the end of your life on earth
  • Palliative care can help you have less health problems at home, in your community or in residential aged care. It can also support you so that you don’t have to go to the hospital emergency department as often as you would without palliative care
  • Palliative care workers are experienced and understand the difficult situations people with serious, incurable illness face. 
Who can use palliative care?

Palliative care can be of help to any person who has a serious incurable illness. It does not matter what age a person is, from babies and children and adults including very old people.

Palliative care also provides support for family members and carers of people who are diagnosed with the life-limiting illness. Families and carers are also supported after the death of the person they are caring for. 

There are a range of services in the ACT that work together to provide palliative care services. Palliative care workers in the ACT include doctors, nurses, social workers, physiotherapists and other allied health workers. Palliative Care Services in the ACT are available for people who reside in the ACT with some services also available to support the palliative care services that are provided by South New South Wales Local Health District for people in the surrounding region. These services are identified on our services page

If you or your loved one think palliative care may help and you are currently at home, talk to your GP or other health professional and ask them to refer you to a palliative care service. You can also refer yourself to some services.

Page last updated on: 18 Nov 2021