What is end of life care?
End of life care aims to improve the quality of life for someone who is approaching death, due to illness or old age. It is usually seen as one part of palliative care. Where palliative care can happen for years, end of life care is usually a year or less. They both focus on quality of life, but end of life care focuses on dying with dignity. It can also include dealing with legal matters.
The care that people receive in their final years, months and days can affect their distress and the grief that comes with dying and death. End of life care includes physical, emotional, social and spiritual care and practical services. It includes a wide range of services to support people in their final months, weeks and days. It also includes services that help their families, friends and carers.
Informed decision making, open communication and collaboration among healthcare providers, families and carers are important factors in good end of life care.
End of life care happens at home, in hospitals, nursing homes and at specialised facilities. When it happens varies – there’s no set timeline for end of life care.
Friends, families and carers play a major role in a person’s experience of dying and it’s important that they are not forgotten. Therefore, end-of-life care includes support for carers to help with emotional and practical needs. An example of this is counselling. Another example is respite care, where the person who is dying is temporarily cared for in a hospital or other facility to provide some relief for the carer.
In Precious Time, end-of-life services are grouped into several broad categories that help people:
End of life care
Victorian Palliative Care Advice Service
1800 360 000
End of life and palliative care explained
Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care
How should care be delivered at the end of life? Information for patients and their families and carers
This information is general guidance and may not be applicable to your specific circumstances. For personal advice, please contact a medical or legal practitioner or a spiritual, cultural or community leader.
This content was written for people in Victoria, Australia. Laws and practices differ in other states, territories and countries.