Palliative Care

Addressing cultural diversity across all integrated palliative care services will assist you to maintain the comfort and dignity of care recipients in a culturally appropriate manner that respects and values the uniqueness of each person.

Culturally appropriate palliative care maintains the quality of life of care recipients from culturally and linguistically diverse background by supporting individual cultural, linguistic and spiritual needs and preferences.

Issues around communication must be addressed by the palliative care team - not only to ensure the provision of accurate and appropriate physical care, but also to establish a meaningful relationship with care recipients and their families. Often a highly stressful time, it is essential that care recipients and their families have access to culturally appropriate emotional and spiritual support.

Culturally appropriate palliative care necessitates a special type of cultural awareness - an understanding of death and dying from different cultural perspectives. The palliative care team should be aware of the cultural and religious factors that can influence the way care recipients and their families respond to these events, and the way pain and suffering are perceived and expressed.

An understanding of specific cultural and religious practices around death, dying and bereavement will assist in the provision of culturally appropriate palliative care. However, as with all care services, it is always important to identify and support individual needs and preferences and not assume that all people from the same culture or religion practice the same rituals or share the same beliefs.

Death and dying are among the most significant and sacred events of all societies. It is therefore imperative that palliative care services respect and support the customs, beliefs, rituals and practices that can provide meaning and comfort to care recipients and their families at this time.

Key Considerations

  • Use professional interpreting services when care plans are developed and reviewed - and whenever informed consent is required.
  • Prior to the palliative care assessment, establish the willingness and ability of care recipients and their families to discuss issues around death and dying, including the appropriateness of such terms.
  • Consult care recipients and their families regarding whether or not open discussion of diagnosis and prognosis is appreciated - and balance this with legal requirements around issues of informed consent.
  • Ensure all palliative care services identify and support the cultural, linguistic and spiritual needs of care recipients and their families, including rituals and practices around death and dying.
  • Establish the cultural and religious impact on the acceptability of certain treatments and medications.
  • Understand that people will have different interpretations of the concept of quality of life, and that these may be culturally determined.
  • Clearly establish the role of family members in decision-making about care and treatment.
  • Resolve any conflicts around palliative care between staff and care recipients and/or family members by highlighting culturally appropriate strategies that are acceptable to all involved.
  • Provide information about palliative care and support services in the preferred language of care recipients and their families.
  • Ensure palliative care recipients and their families have access to culturally appropriate emotional support and spiritual support.
  • Ensure that staff responsible for providing palliative care have been trained in cultural awareness and appropriate communication.

Additional Resources and Links

Migrant Information Centre (Eastern Melbourne) This resource considers the social, emotional, physical and spiritual needs of the person who is using palliative care services and their families. 

It has been developed to support staff to develop strategies to provide culturally appropriate services specifically for Cambodian, Chinese, Indian, Iranian, Sri Lankan and Vietnamese communities living in the Eastern Metropolitan Region of Melbourne.

  • Multicultural Palliative Care Information
    CareSearch, Palliative Care Knowledge Network
    CareSearch is an online resource designed to help those needing relevant and trustworthy information and resources about palliative care. The website has been funded by the Australian Government as part of the National Palliative Care Program.


    Use our National Resources Search for additional resources and links including resources developed under the Community Partners Program (CPP) and the Partners in Culturally Appropriate Care (PICAC) Initiative.