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Palliative Care: Frequently asked questions

Palliative Care

What is Palliative Care?
Where is Palliative Care provided?
When does Palliative Care begin?
What is Advance Care Planning (ACP)?
What are end-of-life care pathways?
What is the Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP)?

Barwon Health Palliative Care Service

What services does Barwon Health Palliative Care provide?
How can I access them?
What area does Barwon Health Palliative Care Services cover?
What is the role of palliative care volunteers?
Do you only see people with cancer?
Do you only see people who are dying?
Do you see children?
Will I always see the same person for home visits?

What is Palliative Care?
Palliative care aims to support people living with a terminal illness. The care focuses on supporting the person who has the illness as well as their family and friends. Palliative care concentrates on a person’s quality of life by managing symptoms, and meeting a person’s social, emotional and spiritual needs. It also provides advice, support and education to family and friends.

Where is Palliative Care provided?
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.

  • Home
    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.

When does Palliative Care begin?
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.

What is Advance Care Planning (ACP)?
ACP is a way of thinking about, discussing and writing down your wishes for care and treatment should the time come when you are unable to speak for yourself due to illness or injury. Read more about Barwon Health's ACP program here.

What are end-of-life care pathways?
End-of-life care pathways are clinical pathways intended to guide the care of dying patients in different settings of care.

What is the Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP)?
The LCP is an end-of life care pathway that is used at the bedside to improve the care of the dying in the last hours and days of life. The goals on the pathway focus on the different aspects of care required including comfort measures, anticipatory prescribing of medication, and discontinuation of inappropriate interventions as well as psychological and spiritual care.  It also includes goals that deal with the care of the family (including after the death of the patient). 

What services does Barwon Health Palliative Care provide?
The Barwon Health Palliative Care Program provides care to patients and their families within the Barwon South West Region. The services we offer include:

  • Palliative care consultancy at the Geelong Hospital
  • Community palliative care
  • Palliative care unit at the McKellar Centre
  • Outpatient clinics

How can I access them?
The Palliative Care service is accessed by means of a referral. A referral can be made by hospital staff, your GP or other specialist with your consent. Your family/carer can also refer or you can self-refer (click here for more information).

What area does Barwon Health Palliative Care Services cover?
Barwon Health Palliative care services are available in the following suburbs:

  • Geelong
  • Anakie
  • Anglesea
  • Beeac
  • Inverleigh
  • Lara
  • Leopold
  • Little River
  • Lorne
  • Meredith
  • Torquay
  • Winchelsea

What is the role of palliative care volunteers?
The palliative care volunteer’s role is to strengthen the ability of the ill person to cope with life, to participate in as much as they can, and to live as fully as possible. Palliative care volunteers aim to support family in dealing with practical and emotional burdens and to assist them in coming to terms with bereavement (click here for more information).

Do you only see people with cancer?
No, we see people with any life-limiting condition, including those involving any organ:

  • Heart (e.g. heart failure)
  • Lungs (e.g. COPD or emphysema, lung fibrosis)
  • Kidneys (e.g. chronic kidney disease or renal failure)
  • Liver (e.g. chronic liver disease)
  • Brain or nerves (e.g. dementia, Parkinson’s Disease, multiple sclerosis, motor neurone disease, progressive supranuclear palsy)

We also see people with blood disorders, e.g. e.g. HIV, which may affect the body and give rise to symptoms or other concerns.

Do you only see people who are dying?
No, we see people at different points during their illness, depending on need. Sometimes this may even be at diagnosis, because of the need for psychological support, or for symptom management while other treatment is in progress.

Other times may be following significant news, such as information regarding advancing illness, or a recognition that you may be approaching the end of your life.

End of life care does not relate to a specific timeframe. For some that may be days, and for others it may be years. It simply encompasses an opportunity to plan for the future (advance care planning), whether that be healthcare, thinking about how and where you would like to be cared for, or tying up loose ends, such as making a will, fulfilling a personal goal, planning time with friends or family, or ensuring all your affairs are in order.

Do you see children?
Yes, we provide palliative care to children and teenagers with life limiting illness. Care is delivered where possible in the environment of the child’s choice and focuses on physical, emotional, social and spiritual support for the child or teenager, family, siblings, friends, school and community. Care also includes grief and bereavement support for the child or teenager, family, siblings, school and community during care and in bereavement. We have links with the children’s ward at the Geelong Hospital, paediatricians, oncologists, the Victorian Paediatric Palliative Care Program at the RCH and Very Special Kids.

Will I always see the same person for home visits?
We are aware of the importance of continuity of care – it also helps us to understand what is important to you and to assess if/how your situation might be changing. We therefore do our best to ensure you have a key person who is able to answer your queries and help co-ordinate your care where necessary. When you are first seen by a member of the team it should be made clear to you who your key contact will be (usually the same person. We cannot guarantee continuity, although we endeavor to wherever possible, as at times it may be necessary for you to be assisted by one of the other members of our team in circumstances where your needs are urgent and/or the allocated key person is unavailable.

There are a range of different professionals in our team, and it may be helpful for you to meet them at certain times, depending on the particular issue we are trying to help with.  For example, the doctors can help with assessment and treatment of your symptoms, the occupational therapists and physiotherapist may help with improving or maintaining your day-to-day function, and our social workers can help with advocacy and counselling.

We may also refer you to other teams, depending on your needs. Sometimes it may be helpful if we come with another person to see you, e.g. another member of our team, an interpreter if English if not your preferred language, or a healthcare professional from a different team.

Last Modified: Wednesday, 06 February 2019