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As your loved one enters the later stages of dementia, they will need significant care on a day-to-day basis. Palliative care offers specialised support to people with an advanced disease, treating symptoms without trying to provide a cure.

Palliative care can help to maintain your loved one’s quality of life, comfort and ability to have their wishes heard. For family and friends, palliative care also provides emotional and practical support through the final stages of your loved one’s life.

Support provided by palliative care

Palliative care takes an individual approach to each person’s needs. This means support will vary from person to person, but might include:

  • managing pain and physical symptoms
  • providing equipment to care for your loved one at home
  • planning for future medical treatment and care needs
  • providing emotional and social support
  • supporting cultural or spiritual needs
  • offering counselling and grief support.

As someone approaches the end of their life, palliative care helps to make sure they’re as comfortable as possible. In addition to managing the person’s pain, support can include:

  • breathing support
  • managing nutrition and hydration needs
  • bowel care
  • mouth and skin care
  • body positioning, mobilisation and massage
  • aromatherapy
  • music.

A variety of health professionals can be involved in palliative care. These include doctors, nurses, allied health professionals (like physiotherapists), social workers and grief counsellors.

Palliative care planning

Palliative care should respect your family member or friend’s wishes and preferences. If you’re planning for your loved one’s care or making decisions on their behalf, consider:

  • any legal instructions they’ve previously made, such as an advance care plan
  • what they would want, based on earlier discussions with them
  • their current and future quality of life
  • the advice of medical professionals
  • the views of other family members.

Some treatment decisions, including nutrition and hydration needs, or using antibiotics, might be difficult, particularly as your loved one approaches the end of their life. When you’re making decisions, it’s helpful to consider:

  • how useful the treatment will be
  • what option provides the most comfort.

Accessing palliative care

Palliative care is available to anyone living with dementia, regardless of the stage of their condition. But it often supports people in the terminal stage of dementia to die in comfort and with dignity.

Family members, carers and health professionals can all organise palliative care. You can find services through Palliative Care Australia’s National Palliative Care Service Directory.

Learn more

Palliative care can provide comfort and support through the final stages of dementia. For more information and advice, see our Later Stages of Dementia page or visit Palliative Care Australia.

Dementia expert webinar: palliative care and dementia, with Sarah Jamieson

It’s okay to take care of your own health and happiness. If you're struggling as someone who cares for a person with dementia, contact the free, confidential National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500, any time of the day or night, for information, advice and support.

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Last updated
5 February 2024