Understanding palliative care

The World Health Organization defines palliative care as: “…an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problem associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial and spiritual.”

Palliative care is not just care provided in the final stages of life, but will help you to live well with a terminal illness. Sometimes palliative care can be of benefit for a person at their initial diagnosis of a life-limiting condition, or be useful on and off through various stages of an illness. Many people have long-term interactions with their palliative care team, seeing them during the course of their illness.

There are many elements to palliative care, including pain and symptom management, advice and support to carer/s, and advance care planning. Palliative care ensures you are kept comfortable and that you maintain good quality of life.

Palliative care involves many health professionals who all bring a range of skills to help you manage your illness. These professions include, but are not limited to:

  • Doctors
  • Nurses
  • Allied health professionals
  • Social workers
  • Pharmacists
  • Physiotherapists
  • Occupational and speech therapists
  • Psychologists
  • Dietitians
  • Spiritual/pastoral practitioners
  • Palliative care trained volunteers

For children and young adults palliative care may be care that is accessed throughout their lives. Many with a degenerative condition will build strong relationships with their carers through the time they spend together. Find out more.