Assessing the need for palliative care

An ageing population, accompanied by increases in chronic diseases, are driving an increased need for palliative care services.

Over the course of the end-of-life journey, the needs of the person and their family change and there are now tools available to assess the needs of those who would benefit from palliative care.

Needs assessments can help to identify what a GPs patients or aged care residents and their families consider important and where they need help and support. Recognition of the individual needs of palliative care patients and their family members forms the basis of individualised care and can improve their quality of life.

Best-practice suggests that conducting a formal needs assessment forms an important part of palliative care in all settings.
There are several palliative care needs assessment tools which can be accessed from the excellent Palliaged web site (

These tools consist of a series of questions focussing on the main areas of well-being: physical, social and occupational, psychological, and spiritual.

There is evidence to suggest that home-based palliative care often meets the physical needs of patients and their carers, whereas spiritual and psychosocial concerns are often inadequately addressed.

A GP competent in the conduct of the assessment can use this series of questions to identify specific needs to plan care or to refer a client to specialist palliative care.

A needs assessment can be conducted on diagnosis of a life-threatening event or disease or at times of significant decline in functional or cognitive ability, at the request of the family.

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