I Am Living

Every journey is unique, and not all people living with a life-limiting illness need palliative care. Services required depend on the type and intensity of need, whether these are physical, psychological, spiritual, social, or cultural. Furthermore, care requirements may change throughout the course of one’s illness.

A range of factors can affect the course of a life-limiting illness, including the illness itself, presence of other illnesses, the person’s personal circumstances, and treatment goals and decisions.

In Australia, the top five causes of death are chronic in nature and follow three broad and relatively predictable paths:

  • short period of decline (for example cancer)
  • long-term limitations with intermittent episodes of a serious nature (for example organ failure)
  • prolonged deterioration (for example aged-related frailty)

Common and predictable needs

For most people common and predictable needs are usually met through the support of family, friends, and carers, and/or existing health care providers such as GPs, community nurses, geriatricians, oncologists, medical specialists, and other health care professionals.

Intermediate and fluctuating needs

People who experience intermittent worsening symptoms, such as unmanaged pain, psychological distress, and impaired functioning may result in unexpected hospital visits or other emergency medical services. In addition to continuing care from their existing healthcare providers in their community, hospital, or aged care setting, specialist palliative care services may be consulted for advice and support.

Complex and persistent needs

People with complex physical, psychological, spiritual, social, and/or cultural needs may require intensive, ongoing palliative care provided by specialists across care settings, from the community to hospitals to aged care facilities, in partnership with primary care providers (GPs, geriatricians, oncologists).