Palliative care

Palliative care is the provision of caring and dignified support and services for people of all ages facing a life-limiting condition. It is provided wherever the person is, whether that is in the home, hospital, community clinic or hospice.

If you have been diagnosed with a life-limiting condition, palliative care aims to:

  • allow you to live the way you want during and after treatment and
  • equip your family and caregivers to support you while taking care of themselves.

When and where is palliative care provided?

The diagnosis and treatment of a life-limiting condition can be mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting. Palliative care is not just helpful at the end of life, but at any stage of the illness. 

  • Palliative care should be provided as soon as the diagnosis of a life-limiting condition is made. 
  • It may be helpful if you suffer from pain, stress or other symptoms that affect your quality of life.
  • Palliative care aims to help you and your family with your needs, expectations, hopes and fears.
  • Ensuring that people are living in comfort and without distress is as important as ensuring a good death.

Palliative care is provided wherever the person is, whether that is in the home, hospital, community clinic or hospice.

Who provides palliative care?

Palliative care is generally provided by a team, depending on the setting and the resources available. This team may include family members, community carers, doctors, nurses, psychologists and social workers.

Examples of how team members may provide palliative care include:

  • Palliative care nurses – provide general care and help you manage pain and other symptoms. They often act as main point of contact between you and the rest of your care team
  • Social workers – provide support to you and your family and help connect you with the services and resources you require. 
  • Pain specialist – experts at finding the cause of pain and treating it.
  • Dietitian – help with any dietary challenges, such as nausea or loss of appetite, provide information on specialised eating plans if required.
  • Physiotherpists – help improve strength and movement.
  • Occupational therapists – focus on helping you with daily tasks and activities. 
  • Grief and bereavement counsellor – help guide and support families experiencing grief and loss.

What does palliative care involve?

The palliative care approach focusses on meeting the needs of the whole person not just treating their condition.

Palliative care should involve:

  • An explanation of your illness, treatments, and medications to you and your caregiver.
  • Pain treatment to help improve your quality of life and relieving any suffering.
  • Support with managing personal care (showering, eating, etc).
  • Advice on self-care, such as healthy eating, exercise, and relaxation. 
  • Guidance on ways in which you can receive support and ways you can network with others.
  • Help with decision-making.
  • Assistance with advanced care planning, so you can make informed and active decisions about how you want to live and die.

Support for those caring for someone who is dying

There are many people who are caring for someone who is dying throughout New Zealand. Sometimes it can be difficult to know what to do or what help and support is available.

Hospice New Zealand has designed a booklet to provide a clearer picture of the situation and to answer some of the questions or issues that might come up as part of this journey. A guide for carers (pdf) Hospice NZ

Learn more

Palliative care Ministry of Health, NZ
End of life service New Zealand Government
Standards for palliative care Hospice New Zealand
Te Ara Whakapiri: Principles and guidance for the last days of life Ministry of Health NZ