Accessing Care

Accessing Care

Accessing palliative care - what you need to know. Sometimes accessing palliative care can be more difficult for people from diverse backgrounds. Here you can explore what is available and find out how to access services.

If you need help now

  • Ring 000 if it is an emergency
  • Ring healthdirect on 1800 022 222 for health advice
  • Ring Lifeline on 13 11 14 if you experience emotional distress

Palliative care in your language

The focus of palliative care is quality of life. This may be very different to the types of care you are familiar with. If you want to know more about palliative care in your language, click on the following to find videos and/or podcasts from CareSearch.

Where can I go for palliative care support?

Click on the different care providers in the image below to learn where and how you can access palliative care support, what care is provided, and who pays. We also have an accessible version of this information.

Home Care Services

Home and community care services offer a range of services in the home and in community settings. There are many different service providers including district nurses and care agencies. Not all providers offer the same services. Some home care providers offer packages of care. Level 3 and 4 packages of care are for those with high care needs. There is a palliative care supplement available for those that are eligible. This provides extra funds to cover the cost of palliative care services.

What can they help you with?

  • To keep independence: Meals, bathing, taking medication, getting in and out of bed, at home nurses for medical conditions, exercise, equipment, podiatry.
  • To keep safe: house cleaning, washing, shopping, home maintenance, home modifications (e.g. ramps), equipment, assistance with housing and care services.
  • Social interaction services: Transport services, in-home social calls, phone and internet communication services, group social activities.

Who pays?

The Government will subsidise home care services for those 65 years and over (50 years and over for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders) and Veterans. People with disability may be eligible for NDIS funding to pay full fees for care provided. The amount of subsidy will depend on how old you are and what you have been assessed for. If you are not eligible for subsidies due to your age you may have to pay full fees.

How do you access this?

If you are 65 years and over (50 years and over for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders) you must apply for an assessment through the My Aged Care website.

If you have a DVA card, you will need a referral from your GP.

If you have a disability, to access NDIS funding you can apply using the Access Request Form on the National Disability Insurance Scheme website.

If under 65 years of age and not eligible for subsidies, you may be able to self refer or be referred to services by a health professional.

Ambulance service

The Australian ambulance service consists of highly trained professionals. Some states (SA and NSW) have extended care paramedics that have received specialised training in palliative care.

What can they help you with?

  • Pre- hospital care
  • Avoiding Hospital (by helping with medication administration and education in the home)
  • Transport to hospital
  • Airport repatriation

Who pays?

You must pay for the ambulance service unless you have private health insurance that will cover the cost. You can also buy insurance directly from the state Ambulance services to cover this.

How do you access this?

For ambulance services Call 000

Allied health

The term allied health covers a wide range of health professionals but not doctors or nurses. They can provide a broad range of care in most settings. This includes help to maintain your mobility and independence. Those that are commonly used in palliative care are:

  • Physiotherapists
  • Dietitian
  • Occupational therapists
  • Speech pathologists
  • Social workers
  • Psychologists

What can they help you with?

  • Exercise
  • Diet and nutrition
  • Getting equipment to make it easier at home and home modifications
  • Assess swallowing difficulties and issues with communication
  • Advocacy
  • Assist with complex social issues and ensure you are safe from harm
  • Promote healthy behaviour relating to your physical and emotional wellbeing

Who pays?

In some settings, there may be a fee that you must pay for these services. Some people are eligible for government subsidies. Ask health professionals for more information.

How do you access this?

Specialist Palliative care teams may have allied health as part of their team and can refer you.

Health professionals that are involved in your care can refer you directly to a service provider or via My Aged Care to receive subsidised care.

You can refer yourself which may result in paying full fee for service or out of pocket costs when using you private health insurance.


The pharmacist plays an important role in your palliative care. Pharmacists work closely with doctors and nurses.

What can they help you with?

  • Dispensing medicines prescribed by your GP
  • Answer questions about your condition and any medicines you are taking
  • Provide advice on supplements and how they may interact with your prescribed medications
  • Carry out a home medication review and work with your GP on a medication management plan. This is a free service.
  • Offer simple solutions to help you take your medication (e.g. Dose administration aids, pill cutters)
  • Stock required medication for end-of-life care

Who pays?

The pharmacist is a free service. The Government subsidises many medications but you will still have to pay some of the cost. When you spend a lot on medications, the PBS Safety Net can help to reduce your costs. Home medication reviews are a free service where the pharmacist looks at all of your medications with you to help with any difficulties.

How do you access this?

The pharmacist works in a pharmacy. These are usually located within your community and you can simply walk in to ask for advice. The GP must provide prescriptions for the pharmacist to fill and can also refer you for a home medication review. To access the PBS Safety Net you must visit the Services Australia website.

The Pharmacy Guild website enables you to search for a pharmacist based on your postcode or the services offered.


At Home

There is a lot you can do with the support of those around you. Here is an example of some of the people you may have at home to support you with your palliative care needs:

  • Family and friends
  • Your neighbours and community
  • Volunteers

What can they help you with?

Planning ahead and making appointments

Transport and support for appointments

General home care

Social activity

Meal preparation

Who pays?

You and your family will pay.

How do you access this?

Often people with life limiting illness find that they need some extra support to remain safe at home. Ask those around you to support you with your needs. If you require more support at home, there are services you can access such as home help, and community volunteer groups such as Meals on Wheels and Compassionate Communities.


Hospital, Tertiary, hospice and specialist care

Most people can be cared for by their GP and community services. But sometimes you may need specialist palliative care or emergency treatment for more complex needs. This level of care is found in hospitals (including specialist palliative care), tertiary care, and hospice.

What can they help you with?

  • to see your specialist doctors and specialist palliative care team
  • have some tests related to your condition
  • receive medical treatment

In hospital, you will see specialist palliative care staff. They will work together with community palliative care services to assess and manage your palliative care needs

Tertiary care-

This can be outpatients services or programs that may help you to improve your health for example

  • Cancer services and treatments
  • Rehabilitation programs
  • Outreach services

When staying at home for end-of-life care is no longer an option you may be able to stay in an in-patient palliative care unit called a ‘hospice’. Hospice units are often attached to hospitals or aged care facilities. Benefits include:

  • having a more homely feel than hospital.
  • a family member or friend can often stay over.
  • usually have unlimited visiting hours so people can visit you for longer
  • a specialist palliative care doctor will manage your medical care
  • you may still be able to continue seeing your health professionals from home (e.g. Counsellor or social worker)

Who pays?

These services are usually paid for by Medicare (for Australian citizens and residents)

How do you access this?

You may attend via:

  • an arranged appointment
  • a GP referral
  • by attending the emergency department
  • be transported via ambulance

Advocacy groups

Advocacy services focus on the needs, wishes and rights of a person, while maintaining confidentiality. They are there to help you get the treatment and care that you need and have a right to receive.

What can they help you with?

  • Interact with systems and services on your behalf e.g. aged care, disability
  • To know and understand your rights
  • Help make decisions about your care
  • Resolve concerns or complaints

Who pays?

Most services are free.

How do you access this?

Visit the My Aged Care website, the Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN), or visit the National Disability Advocacy Program (NDAP).

General Practitioner and General Practice

A General Practitioner (GP) is a doctor working at a general practice or clinic within your community. They work with other health professionals such as nurses, dietitians, and some complimentary therapists to manage your health care needs.

What can they help you with?

Tests, Diagnosis, symptom management, care planning, prescribe medication, refer to other services, family meetings, nursing tasks such as wound care and general health assessments.

Who pays?

Medicare (for Australian residents and citizens) covers most of the cost. Gap fees may apply if your GP does not bulk bill. For some complementary therapies a fee may apply. If you have private health insurance, you may pay a gap fee.

How do you access care?

Contact your GP surgery or clinic to make an appointment. Some GP’s will home visit palliative care patients if requested.

Residential Aged Care

If you can no longer live at home because you need ongoing help with everyday tasks, the government funds a range of aged care homes across Australia.

What can they help you with?

  • 24-hour care services
  • Bathing, meals, laundry, medications, and nursing
  • Palliative care and end of life care

Who pays?

There are fees and subsidies for aged care homes. To find out more about how to be assessed for an aged care home and how much it may cost, visit My Aged Care website, and apply for an assessment.

How do you access this?

When you have had an assessment, you will be approved for the level of care that you require. You can contact aged care homes to ask for a tour. When you have decided where you would like to live, you can ask to be placed on their waiting list. When a place becomes available, they will contact you.


What to do when accessing care is hard

Knowing what you need help with is the first step to accessing palliative care. Sometimes there are barriers that make this more difficult for you.

To find resources that can help you to overcome some of these barriers, click a statement that describes your needs:

Page created 29 October 2021