Palliative care (or supportive care) is given to people to relieve the symptoms of their disease. Treatment given by a palliative care specialist is not focused on finding a cure for the underlying disease, rather it is given to improve the patient's quality of life.
Palliative care does not necessarily mean that all other treatment types are ceased. It is common for people to access palliative care and receive chemotherapy or other treatments at the same time.
Talking to palliative care specialist can help the pateint and their family to start thinking about their wishes moving forward, better understand the resources that are available to them, and feel supported to make the right treatment and lifestyle plans for them. Palliative care teams provide support to the whole family, not just the patient.
Working with the palliative care team can help people manage any physical, emotional, social, cultural or spiritual problems they may be facing due to their illness. Practical and emotional support can be provided.
Palliative care is not a sign that the treatment team is giving up on a patient - it is quite the opposite. It is telling the patient that the team cares enough to bring symptom management experts into their care team, so they get a better quality of life.
Palliative care teams may even be a part of a person's care right from the time of diagnosis - palliative care can never begin too early if a person is displaying symptoms that affect their activities of daily living. It can be delivered at home, in the hospital, in a special palliative care unit or hospice, or in a nursing home - depending on the services availalble in your region and your particular circumstances.
If you would like to search for palliative services available near you, contact the National Palliative Care Service Directory: www.palliativecare.org.au; or ask your treating team.