The terms ‘end of life’ and ‘palliative care’ hold different meanings to different people.

End of life care

People approaching and reaching the end of their life require varying levels of care and support, and their needs will fluctuate and change. Services need to be responsive, coordinated and flexible in meeting these changing needs.

Within NSW Health services, ‘end of life care’ refers to all the care that a person receives during this phase of life when they have a life-limiting condition.

Palliative care

Palliative care aims to improve quality of life of people as they head towards the end of life and their families or carers (see World Health Organization). It can include the prevention and relief of from pain and other distressing symptoms through early identification, assessment and treatment. Palliative care addresses needs that may be physical, psychosocial or spiritual. However, not everyone who reaches the end of their life will need palliative care. It can be delivered by palliative care teams and specialists but it is also often delivered by other health workers.

Palliative care is an approach to provide the best possible care for an individual as they near end of life, and to ensure their family and carers are well supported throughout that stage and beyond. Through palliative care we aim to promote dignity and to prevent and reduce physical and emotional suffering. Palliative care can support people to be cared for and to die at home, or in a community setting if they wish.

Palliative care improves the quality of life, and may also positively influence the course of illness. It may be offered alongside other therapies which are intended to prolong life.

Often palliative care is needed during the last year of life, but it may be required for a longer or shorter period. It can be difficult to know when a person is entering this phase of their life and will vary from person to person and with the needs of their families and carers.

Palliative care resources for multicultural communities and people with disability

What are 'end of life care' and 'palliative care' in Auslan

Resources for carers supporting someone with a life-limiting illness

Resources are available on the Carers NSW website and include:

  • video with carers sharing their experiences and insights of caring towards the end of life
  • an interactive online learning module called 'Caring for someone with a ​life-limiting illness'
  • facts sheets including two specific resources for young carers​​

NSW Health policy

The NSW End of Life and Palliative Care Framework 2019-25 includes the NSW priorities and approach to palliative care. See  Advance care planning for information on planning for the end of life.​​​​​

Current as at: Thursday 1 June 2023