Palliative care plays a vital role at the end of life for many Australians. It aims to improve the quality of life for a person living with a life-limiting illness by supporting physical, emotional, spiritual and social needs.

People who require palliative care may be at different stages of an illness. They may need palliative care for a short period of time, intermittently or consistently over a period of months or years. However, many receiving palliative care will be approaching the end of their life.

For those approaching end of life, nearly half will require treatment decisions to be made and the majority will lack the capacity to make their own decisions.

Advance care planning is an essential element of quality palliative care. In the palliative care setting, a person should be encouraged to choose a substitute decision-maker and to write down their health and care preferences in an advance care directive.

The National Palliative Care Strategy calls for more people preparing, using and maintaining advance care directives, including within aged care and for people with dementia.

Advance care directives

An advance care directive for someone in palliative care should consider preferences for:

  • pain and other symptom management
  • refusal or withdrawal of treatment
  • cultural, emotional and spiritual support
  • personal care
  • place of death

Substitute decision-makers should be involved in conversations about advance care directives. Family members and close friends should also be involved to help them understand what to expect.

Further palliative care information

Palliative Care Australia is the national peak body for palliative care and their website is a useful source of information for everything related to palliative care.

PalliAGED is a palliative care evidence and practice information resource for the Australian aged care sector. They provide support for health and care practitioners and are a source of trustworthy information for older Australians, their families and friends.

Online Courses - Advance Care Planning Australia Learning

Our learning website offers health and care professionals, students, substitute decision-makers, individuals and their families the opportunity to study advance care planning through free online learning modules.

Visit ACPA training and education

See also

Last updated: September 2023