Kids Health Info

Palliative care - hints for families

  • What is palliative care?

    Palliative care is specialised care and support provided to someone with a terminal illness, as well as their family and caregivers.

    Palliative care aims to help people live as well as possible by reducing the amount of pain they feel. The goal is to improve the quality of life for all patients with a terminal illness.

    When the question of palliative care is raised, you as a parent may feel confused, overwhelmed and frightened. You may experience many reactions such as shock, disbelief, a sense of unreality, numbness, sadness, fear, anxiety, anger, guilt, emptiness, hopelessness, helplessness and other intense feelings. It is important to know that these feelings and thoughts are experienced by many other families and are not unexpected at such a difficult time.

    Helpful hints for parents

    • Do what is right and comfortable for you, your child and your family, NOT what you think might be expected of you.
    • Continue to ask questions to help understand all the things you want to and need to understand. Remember, no question is too small or too silly to be asked.
    • It is okay for you to want to know everything or only some things at a time.
    • Let your child's treating health care team know when you are ready to talk about your child's illness progression, symptoms, timing of death and other related issues.
    • Seek a second opinion if you want to.
    • Share the care and trust others to help.
    • Look after yourself; build in some of your 'own time' into the daily routine.
    • As a family, try to openly discuss how you are going to manage the many changes that are ahead.
    • Share your feelings, thoughts, fears, concerns, hopes and expectations with a trusted person.
    • If you find it hard to talk about things, consider keeping a diary of your thoughts and feelings.
    • Create memories of your child. This can be achieved through special times together, photos, videos, etc. 
    • We all need the help and support of other people at some time in our lives - you will be able to help someone else at another time. Now it is your turn to have support.

    Please call on the supports available to help you. The fact sheet Palliative Care - resources and contacts contains a list of resources (not an exhaustive one) that you may wish to access for information, advocacy, emotional and practical support, and bereavement care.

    More information


    Produced by the RCH  Department of Palliative Care.  First published March 2006. Updated October 2010.

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