Palliative Care in Australia

What is palliative care?

Palliative care is person-centred care that helps people with a progressive, life-limiting illness to live as fully and comfortably as possible.

The main goal of palliative care is to help maintain quality of life. It does this through identifying and catering to physical, emotional, cultural, social and spiritual needs.

Palliative care also offers support to families and carers.

The 4 types of palliative care

Palliative care can be provided in four different settings, depending on your needs and your preferences. The four types of palliative care are:

  1. At home
  2. In hospital
  3. In a hospice
  4. In a residential aged care facility

The 5 stages of palliative care

There are five different stages of palliative care which are used by clinicians to determine the type or amount of care required for each individual.

The five phases of palliative care are:

1. Stable Phase

This phase is where the person is stable and their condition and symptoms are comfortably and adequately managed.

2. Unstable Phase

In this phase, the person experiences a rapid decrease in their condition and requires urgent or emergency treatment to manage this.

3. Deteriorating Phase

In this phase, the person’s condition gradually worsens and must be managed accordingly. Unlike the unstable phase, it is not a rapid deterioration and emergency treatment is not needed.

4. Terminal Care Phase

In the terminal care phase, death is imminent and the care provided is most likely to be pain management rather than intervention.

5. Bereaved Phase

In this phase, the person who has been receiving palliative care has passed away, and the focus turns towards their family and loved ones to provide support and counselling if necessary.

Palliative Care Services

Palliative care services are wide-ranging and can be tailored to an individual’s specific needs.

Some common services received through palliative care are:

  • Pain relief
  • Assistance with breathing difficulties, nausea, and other symptoms
  • Organisation of equipment such as a wheelchair, walking frame or special bed
  • Counselling, grief and bereavement support, as well as avenues for families and carers to talk about sensitive issues
  • Support for people to meet cultural, spiritual, emotional and social obligations and concerns
  • Links to other home and financial support services

Identifying needs and developing an appropriate care plan is also part of the palliative care team’s role. Understanding how needs will be met, symptoms managed, and wishes adhered to are crucial pieces of the palliative care puzzle.

The team may also speak to family members to determine their goals and wishes for care.

What is hospice care in Australia?

Hospice in Australia is end of life care. If you have been diagnosed with a condition that only allows you to live for another 6 months or less, you will be eligible for hospice care. However, to start receiving hospice care, you will need to have decided to stop any ‘curative’ treatments.

Palliative care vs. hospice care

Is palliative care the same as hospice care?

Palliative care is not always end of life care. It certainly does include that when the time comes, but people can enter and exit palliative care without receiving end of life care.

What is respite care?

Respite care is having someone else take care of a care recipient, while their regular carer takes a break and has time off to relax and recuperate.

The goal of respite care is to give caregivers a rest from their caring duties, so that they don’t experience carer burnout. 

Respite care can be pre-planned, or can be organised in an emergency, such as when your primary carer has to go to hospital, has to attend an emergency, or passes away.

What are the different types of respite care?

Respite care can be either short-term, or long-term. You have three main options for respite care. They are:

  1. In home respite care (which can be funded privately or with a Home Care Package)
  2. Respite care in the community (CHSP)
  3. Respite care in an Aged Care Home (privately funded or government-subsidised)

Respite Care vs. Palliative Care

Unlike palliative care, respite is meant to be short-term and with the purpose of giving regular carers a break from their caring duties. Palliative care is not intended to give carers a break, but rather to help someone recover from a serious illness or condition, or as part of end-of-life care.