A nurse checks on a patient in the cancer ward

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Frequently Asked Questions

Palliative care - Frequently Asked Questions

What is palliative care?

Palliative care is the care of people with an advanced disease where cure is unlikely. This care is extended to a person's family and carers. Palliative care at Austin Health may be provided on the acute cancer units, by the Palliative Care Consultancy team, or on the specialist Palliative Care Unit (PCU). The Centre's service liaises closely with community palliative care services to ensure that the care is continued when patients return home.

Why would I be referred to the Palliative Care Unit?

People are admitted to the unit when they have pain or other symptoms that require treatment by the specialist palliative care team of doctors, nurses, and allied health staff. Patients may also be admitted for end-of-life care or discharge planning.

How long will I be in the unit?

Depending on the type and severity of your symptoms, you may be a patient in the unit for anything from a couple of days to a couple of weeks. Some patients come directly from the acute wards for discharge planning before going home, and other people may return to the unit for end-of-life care.

Will I be able to get home again?

The unit aims for all patients to return home once their pain and symptoms are under control. Generally people stay for less than two weeks before returning home, except for patients who are imminently dying. Patients who are unable to return home but are medically stable will usually need to be referred to a residential aged care facility (often a nursing home). The palliative care team will support you and your family in this process.

What do I need to bring?

You only need to bring your toiletries, night wear and some comfortable clothes and shoes if you feel happier getting dressed each day. You can also bring along any personal items that will make you feel more at home, for example your own pillow or doona, something to read, music and photographs.

If you are coming from home, please bring your medications and any recent test results or letters from your doctor.

What are the visiting hours?

Visiting hours are 8am to 8pm.

Please talk to the nurse-in-charge about visits outside of these hours.

Children are welcome to visit under the supervision of a responsible adult.

Can family members stay overnight?

Family members are welcome to stay overnight if the patient is very unwell, but this needs to be discussed with the nurse in charge of the shift.

Can my family ring to see how I am?

Families are welcome to ring at any time, but staff may not always be able to answer if they are busy looking after patients. The best time to ring is between 9am to 3pm when a ward clerk is available.
It works best if you or your family chooses one spokesperson, who can then update the rest of your friends and family on your progress.

Can my pets visit?

Pets are welcome to visit if they have a calm temperament and are not likely to be aggressive or excessively noisy, as this can distress other patients. Dogs need to have been washed within the past week and immunisation needs to be current.

Do I get to choose my doctor?

The Palliative care unit has several doctors, including a hospital registrar and junior medical officer who work full-time Monday to Friday. Palliative care specialists visit the unit at least once a week on a fixed roster and all patients are cared for by the specialist who is on duty.

What other palliative care services are there nearby?

The unit partners with a number of specialist community palliative care services who will take over your care once you are discharged. This means that once you return home, they will be your primary contact. Their specialist nurses will visit you at home and they are available by phone 24-hours-a-day. If you need to return to the unit, the community palliative care service will make the necessary arrangements.

Will I be able to go home to die?

If you want to die at home, the unit will do its best to support your decision, in partnership with the community palliative care services. Should you or your family change your mind at any time, the community service can arrange your transfer back to the unit.

What will palliative care do for me at home?

The specialist community palliative care services will help you with pain and symptom management, family support and counselling.

Will the nurses visit me every day?

Each community service is different, but generally they will not visit you daily, particularly if you are comfortable and your symptoms are well controlled, but they will check on you regularly by phone. If anything changes and you need them, you are able to ring them on their 24 hour contact number.

How much does palliative care cost?

There is no cost for your stay at the Palliative care unit, however if you have private health insurance or a Department of Veterans Affairs card, it is appreciated if you provide those details as it assists the health service to provide better facilities, at no cost to yourself.

If I have private insurance can I get a private room?

Because Austin Health is a public hospital, it allocates single rooms to patients based on their individual needs rather than their insurance status.

Television and phone access require payment, whether you are a private or public patient.

Where can I find out more?

See the Cancer information page for more information.

You can also find out about the community palliative care services in our region by visiting the North and West Metropolitan Region Palliative Care Consortium website.