Caresearch and Palliative Care Victoria both have extensive information for patients, families and carers on interdisciplinary, specialist palliative care.  The patient, family and carer site map at Caresearch provides a comprehensive overview of information available.  The information below provides links within these two main websites.

In Victoria, people who have a life threatening illness, their families and carers who need complex care are provided with needs based palliative care by interdisciplinary teams of specialist palliative care professionals.  In Australia, palliative care is provided on the basis of patient need, regardless of diagnosis or prognosis – a needs based approach.

Complex care is typically provided by specialist palliative care professionals when symptom/s experienced by patients, family or carers are ‘unstable’; i.e. when symptom/s do not respond to they way the symptom is usually managed or when new, unexpected symptoms occur.  Symptoms may include physical, psycho-social, emotional or spiritual symptoms.

Interdisciplinary teams of specialist palliative care professionals comprise medical, nursing and allied health care professionals, who have recognised qualifications or accreditation in palliative care and whose substantive work is with specialist, interdisciplinary palliative care services.  Palliative care professionals have specialist knowledge, skills and expertise in care of people living with a life threatening illness, and their families and carers, who have health care needs which require complex care, including management of symptoms, loss, grief and bereavement.

With interdisciplinary teams of specialist palliative care professionals, patients, families and carers’ participate in planning their own care and when care is provided.

As needed, medical, nursing and allied health can include:

  • Medical specialists: for example cardiologists, physicians, oncologists, surgeons, neurologists, geriatricians, paediatricians, urologists, radiologists
  • General practitioners
  • Nursing: including palliative care nurse specialists, nurse practitioners, district nurses
  • Allied health: for example social and welfare workers, spiritual support workers, dieticians, physiotherapists, stoma therapists
  • Personal care workers and volunteers.

Palliative care is holistic care, often also referred to as the mind/body connection.  Holistic care covers all aspects of being a human being: mind, body, spirit, physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and cultural aspects.  With conventional medical, nursing and allied health therapy, holistic palliative care also considers complementary therapies, which may include massage, aromatherapy, relaxation, meditation, acupressure, or art and music therapy.

Education, training and research about caring for people who are dying and their families/carers support interdisciplinary teams of specialist palliative care professionals.

A needs based approach to palliative care means not all patients with a life threatening illness need complex care requiring specialist, interdisciplinary palliative care.  Many patients may most appropriately be cared for by primary care providers (health care in the community accessed directly by patients) using a ‘palliative approach’.  Equally, some patients may move between specialist, interdisciplinary palliative care and a palliative approach or vice versa, depending on the complexity of care needed at any particular time.