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Palliative care for young people

As with palliative care for adults, palliative care for babies, children and teenagers focuses on maintaining quality of life by dealing with their physical, emotional, cultural, social and spiritual needs, and supporting the family. The palliative care team will also consider the young person’s stage of development, which will affect their understanding of illness and ability to participate in making decisions.

Palliative care for young people is provided by health professionals who specialise in paediatrics (the care of children), as well as palliative care experts. Most children’s hospitals have specialist paediatric palliative care services who can provide care directly or advise the cancer care team. Family are considered part of the palliative care team.

Depending on the needs of the young person and their family, palliative care may be in the home, in hospital or, where available, in a children’s palliative care unit (hospice).

Support for young people

There are a number of organisations that specifically support young people with cancer and their families by providing palliative care, financial assistance, counselling, resources and respite care. These are listed below.

The hospital social worker can also provide support and may know of other useful networks in your local community. You can also call Cancer Council 13 11 20.

CanTeen – This service supports young people aged 12–25 affected by cancer and bereavement through an interactive online forum, counselling services, and resources on palliative care and end-of-life issues. Call
1800 835 932 or visit canteen.org.au.

Camp Quality – This service offers support for children aged 0–15 living with cancer, and their families, through each stage of the cancer experience, including palliative care and bereavement. Call 1300 662 267 or visit campquality.org.au.

Redkite – This charity supports young people and their families through cancer by providing emotional guidance (including bereavement support), financial assistance and educational services. Call 1800 733 548 or visit redkite.org.au.

Youth Cancer Services – This service provides hospital-based cancer treatment and support services for young people aged 15–25. For more information and to find the Youth Cancer Service closest to you, visit canteen.org.au/youth-cancer.

Palliative Care Australia – This organisation provides detailed resources to help families and carers prepare for situations they may face during their child’s illness. You can download these resources from palliativecare.org.au/children.

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Understanding Palliative Care

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This information is reviewed by

This information was last reviewed August 2021 by the following expert content reviewers: Dr Cynthia Parr, Specialist in Palliative Care, HammondCare and Macquarie University Hospital, NSW; Dr Lisa Cuddeford, Clinical Lead, WA Paediatric Palliative Care Service, WA; Dr Laura Kirsten, Principal Clinical Psychologist, Nepean Cancer Care Centre, NSW; Penny Neller, Project Coordinator, National Palliative Care Projects, Australian Centre for Health Law Research, Queensland University of Technology, QLD; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; A/Prof Peter Poon, Director, Supportive and Palliative Care, Monash Health, and Adjunct Associate Professor, Monash University, VIC; Dr Kathy Pope, Radiation Oncologist, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Kate Reed-Cox, Nurse Practitioner National Clinical Advisor, Palliative Care Australia; Juliane Samara, Nurse Practitioner, Clare Holland House – Specialist Palliative Aged Care, Calvary Public Hospital, ACT; Annabelle Solomon, Consumer; Silvia Stickel, Consumer; Kaitlyn Thorne, Manager, PalAssist, Cancer Council Queensland; Kim Vu, Consumer; Rosie Whitford, Social Worker – Grief, Bereavement and Community Palliative Care, Prince of Wales Hospital, NSW.