Palliative Care

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What is palliative care?

Palliative care is a form of care that aims to improve your quality of life when you have a life-limiting illness, such as advanced prostate cancer, even though most men with advanced prostate cancer can live for a long time because of the treatments available

Palliative care isn’t the same as end-of-life care (care given in the final months or weeks of life). Palliative care is essentially good, holistic, complete care for anyone that has a disease that can’t be cured. It focuses on you as an individual and not just your disease and aims to maximise your quality of life and help you manage at home rather than in hospital. 

Research suggests that palliative care reduces pain and distress, improves comfort, mood and feelings of wellbeing, and may also help to extend your life expectancy.

Its purpose is to quickly identify and treat physical symptoms of the disease and side effects of treatment and provide you with physical, emotional, social and spiritual support. Palliative care may include palliative radiation therapy if the cancer has spread to your bones, pain medications and/or other treatments.

Treatment choices in palliative care

Palliative care and end-of-life care, treatment choices can vary depending on your situation and what’s important to you. You may choose to stop all treatment, or you may base your decision on what will offer you the best quality of life. 

Your decisions are personal, although you may like to discuss them with someone you trust such as, your partner, a family member or friend. It’s important to know that you don’t have to make treatment decisions immediately. Take time to talk to your supportive loved ones, your healthcare team and/or a PCFA nurse and carefully consider your options.

Support in palliative care

Palliative care is provided by a range of medical and allied health professionals including GPs, palliative care nurses, specialist doctors, dietitians, physiotherapists, psychologists, social workers, and many others, depending on your personal situation and needs. Ask your GP or a PCFA nurse (call 1800 22 00 99) to refer you to health professionals who can provide specialist care to help you. Specialist palliative care is also available. A palliative care specialist is an expert in pain and symptom control who works closely with your healthcare team.

Palliative care also helps your partners, family and friends to better manage the impact of the disease. Studies have shown that it benefits not only the person with cancer, but the whole family. Information for your loved ones and carers can be found at the following link: 

Information for Partners, Family & Carers

More information on palliative care can also be found by contacting Palliative Care Australia. A list of contact details for each state can be found at this link:

Should you plan ahead when having palliative care?

Planning ahead to settle legal, financial, and business affairs allows you and your family to concentrate on the emotional aspects of your illness and its effect on your family. This may also help you to not worry or feel concerned about what will happen to your surviving family members.

It’s also important at this time to make sure that your treatment wishes are known – what type of treatment you are or are not willing to receive. An advanced healthcare directive (sometimes called a living will) is a legally binding document that’s recognised in Australia and outlines your wishes for future medical care. Starting the conversation early strengthens your relationship with your healthcare team and enables them to provide you with the necessary information.

What is end-of-life care?

End-of-life care is given in the final weeks or months of your life. Often this care is provided through palliative care services. The care can be provided to you at home, in a special palliative care facility (hospice) or in hospital.

Being treated with dignity

When the end of life comes, each of us hopes to die with dignity. You may like to consider:  

  • Leaving a life legacy – for example, a letter written to loved ones, a video, a painting
  • Finding dignity in daily interactions with your family, friends and carers
  • Setting yourself tasks in the time you have left, for example rereading a favourite book or just spending quality time with loved ones or pets

It’s a good idea to tell members of your healthcare team what they need to know about you as a person to give you the best care possible. This information will help them ensure you are treated with dignity. 

Many people affected by advanced cancer of any kind say that spirituality is, or becomes, an important part of their lives. What matters is finding comfort, completion and peace, and sustaining hope. Your healthcare team and PCFA nurses are here to support you and provide advice or any resources that may be helpful to you. 

Find out about the resources and support available to you by following the link to: PCFA Nursing & Support

If you are feeling distressed call a PCFA Nurse on 1800 22 00 99 or if you need urgent help, call Lifeline on 13 11 44 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36

Key points

  • Palliative care aims to improve your quality of life when you have a life-limiting illness
  • It is specialised care that aims to provide you with physical, emotional, social and spiritual support
  • Treatment and support options are available through a range of medical and allied health professionals and PCFA nurses
  • Palliative care also benefits your loved ones and carers
  • It’s good to talk to your healthcare team and/or supportive loved ones about your medical, spiritual, emotional and practical choices, so they can better meet your wishes and needs