Questions about Palliative Care

Palliative Care is:

  • A service that may be offered to patients following the diagnosis of a life limiting illness.
  • Available for support and for pain and symptom control while patients are being treated for their disease and when no further treatment options are available.
  • Care that supports the patients’ rights to have access to the best strategies for pain and symptom control in order to live life as fully as possible.
  • Not about giving up hope because patients have a life limiting illness, it is about assisting patients to maintain quality of life despite their illness.

Palliative Care services:

  • Encourage patients to participate in care planning and service provision, and includes identifying the roles of family and friends.
  • Accept the complexity of being human. Caregivers are encouraged to give consideration to the emotional, social, spiritual, cultural and physical aspects of decision making.
  • Promote preparation for dying in order to reduce fear and promote resourceful living.
  • Understand that the situation which patients face will also be difficult for family, friends, colleagues and others, who may require support.

Palliative care services are provided in many settings. Palliative care services and facilities work together to ensure that patients receive care in the setting most suited to their needs at the time.


Many people who have a life limiting illness want to spend as much time as possible in their own home with the care and support of family, friends and their community. In Victoria there are a number of ways that patients can be supported at home. Each region in Victoria has a specialist community palliative care service which coordinates palliative care services for that region.

Residential Care Facilities

A residential care facility is considered to be the home of those who live there. A patient living in a residential care facility can receive palliative care services there, as would anyone living in their own home. Local palliative care services can provide advice and support to health care professionals in residential care facilities to ensure the patient receives palliative care.

Inpatient Care – Hospital

Many hospitals in Victoria now have a palliative care service or team who can support patients in hospital. Palliative care service providers can talk to patients about how they are managing at home, they can make recommendations about symptom management and can suggest, and often organise, increased support at home if it is needed on discharge.

Inpatient Care – Palliative Care Unit

A number of hospitals in Victoria have a specific palliative care unit providing inpatient care. Symptoms can often be managed at home but sometimes a hospital admission is required for symptom management. Patients require a doctor’s referral for admission to a palliative care unit.

There are a number of ways palliative care services can be accessed.

  • Palliative care services may be discussed with patients at any time during the course of their illness. A health care professional, often a General Practitioner or hospital doctor may talk to patients about palliative care as an option for ongoing professional care and support. With a patient’s permission, health care professionals may refer to a specialist palliative care service when they feel there is a need for further assistance in dealing with the effects of an illness.
  • Patients may access palliative care directly by contacting their local community palliative care service.

Patients and their families may require different levels of supportive care or symptom management at different times. Individuals’ responses to life limiting illness vary and people with the same illness may have different needs. Some palliative care may be considered useful in the early stages of an illness but needs might change as the disease stabilises and palliative care services might be reduced or ceased until a further need arises. If patients feel that their illness is preventing them from doing what is important to them or preventing them from achieving their goals, it may be helpful to speak with a health professional - local community palliative care services are able to assist in this area.

No. Palliative care is available for all people facing life limiting illnesses.