About this booklet

This booklet is for older people living in the community and for their family and friends.

Family carers (sometimes called ‘carers’) are friends or relatives who provide care or support for the older person.

The booklet is a simplified summary of a much more detailed and technical document called Guidelines for a Palliative Approach for Aged Care in the Community Setting (referred to in this booklet as the ‘Community Care Guidelines’), which has been published by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing, Canberra. This plain-English summary provides older people and their family carers with helpful information about good care practices for older people living in the community.

Most of the information in this booklet is based on ‘good practice points’ agreed by the experts who developed the Community Care Guidelines described above. Where the information is based on evidence from scientific studies, this is indicated as follows:

What the research shows

Other types of information presented throughout this booklet are:

Practical tip - Clear instructions for things that you (the older person) need to do.

Advice - Additional advice for your for carers family carers.

Case study - Shows how advice in the booklet might work in practice.

Contacts for further information are also given throughout the booklet.

Telephone numbers


The full version of the Community Care Guidelines and accompanying booklets are available at:
For more information Please visit Care Search website
For more information Please visit Palliative Care Information at Department of Health and Ageing website
Telephone: 1800 500 853

What is a palliative approach?

A palliative approach to care is health care that aims to maintain or improve quality of life.

The emphasis is on improving living, although end-of-life care is addressed as well as care over longer periods. Bereavement care is also part of a palliative approach.

You may benefit from a palliative approach to care if you have an illness or condition that is likely to affect how long you will live or if you are becoming frail. People who have severe chronic heart failure, severe lung disease, moderate or severe dementia, motor neurone disease, advanced Parkinson’s disease or cancer may benefit from a palliative approach to their care, as may many others. This approach values and supports quality of life and comfort — but it does not provide a cure.

A palliative approach to care is helpful whenever a need arises. Sometimes it may be provided over years and sometimes over a shorter period. It might suddenly be needed or be introduced gradually.

A palliative approach aims to:
  • manage physical symptoms
  • address emotional, social or spiritual issues
  • support family carers.

Who provides a palliative approach?

A team of family carers, care workers, health care professionals and volunteers may provide a palliative approach to care for an older person. This team is called the ‘health care team’ throughout this booklet.

Family carers can help you manage at home as you need greater support. They may call to check on you, help with shopping or cooking, help you with your daily physical care, or do many other things. Often the things they do to help will change over time. Whether the friend or relative provides emotional support or physical support, and even if their contact is by phone rather than face to face, they are still viewed as a family carer.

Care workers are employed by a service provider to deliver help and care in the home. They work under the supervision of a health care professional (usually a nurse) but are not allowed to do some things that health care professionals look after. Supervision of care workers is often from a distance.
Health care professionals may include doctors (such as general practitioners, geriatricians or palliative medical specialists), nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech pathologists, community pharmacists, pastoral care workers and others.

Volunteers, who provide unpaid care or support, may also form an important part of the health care team. They can offer many services, including companionship, counselling, transport and home help.

Throughout this booklet, you will be advised to ask your health care professional for more information. This usually means that you should speak to your nurse or doctor. Sometimes another professional may be mentioned. Care workers can help by arranging for their supervising health care professional to contact you.