As with palliative care for adults, palliative care for children and teenagers focuses on enhancing quality of life by addressing physical, practical, emotional and spiritual needs, and supporting the family. The team must also consider how the young person’s stage of development affects all these needs.
Because there may be uncertainty about the course of a child’s illness, elements of palliative care are often introduced early and combined with treatment that aims to actively treat the cancer.
Palliative care for young people involves health professionals with specialised skills in paediatrics (the care of children), as well as palliative care experts. Most children’s hospitals have some specialist paediatric palliative care services, which may provide care directly or advise the young person’s health care team.
Depending on their circumstances, young people can receive palliative care at home, in hospital, or in a paediatric palliative care unit (hospice).
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 on the next page. The hospital social worker can also provide support, and may know of other useful networks in your local community.
An organisation for young people aged 12–24 affected by cancer. CanTeen provides an interactive online forum and resources on palliative care and end-of-life issues. It also runs camps and other activities. Visit canteen.org.au or call 1800 226 833.
An organisation for children aged 0–13 living with cancer, and their families. Camp Quality offers support through each stage of the cancer journey, including palliative care and bereavement. Its services include camps for siblings, one-off house cleaning, camps for bereaved families, and holiday respite. Visit campquality.org.au or call 1300 662 267.
A charity that supports young people and their families through cancer by providing emotional guidance (including bereavement support), financial assistance and educational services. For more information about Redkite’s services, talk to the social worker at the hospital, visit redkite.org.au or call 1800 733 548.
A non-profit group that provides financial assistance to families of children with cancer, and helps fund projects in public hospitals and oncology units. Visit kidswithcancer.org.au or call 1800 255 522.
The peak national organisation for palliative care. Palliative Care Australia has a detailed resource, Journeys, to help families and carers prepare for situations they may face during their child’s illness. To access the resource, see the teenagers and children section at palliativecare.org.au.
Reviewed by: Dr Michelle Gold, Director of Palliative Care, Alfred Health, VIC; Patricia Chaplin, Consumer; Dr Jan Maree Davis, Area Director, Palliative Care Service, Calvary Healthcare Sydney and St George Hospital, Kogarah, and Conjoint Lecturer, University of New South Wales, NSW; Denise Green, Consumer; Palliative Care Australia; Paula Ryan, Nurse Unit Manager, Cancer & Specialist Palliative Care Service, Rockhampton Hospital, QLD; Pippa Sangster, Telephone Support Group Facilitator, Cancer Council NSW, NSW; Robyn Tucker, Cancer Nurse, Cancer Information and Support Service, Cancer Council Victoria, VIC; Trilby Witton-Oates, Social Worker, Rockhampton Hospital, QLD.