Core Modules

module 4 | Activity 8: Role of allied health professionals in supporting function

Many different health professionals work together to support the person with a life-limiting illness and their family / carers. Interdisciplinary teams are common.[1] Allied health professionals are an essential component of the palliative care team as they bring a broad range of interventions, knowledge and experience to improve the quality of life for people with life-limiting illnesses.[2] Allied health professionals have skills in assessment and interventions to improve the comfort, function and safety of the person and their family throughout their palliative care journey.[3] Allied health professionals also play a key role in holistic problem solving and adapting traditional therapies and interventions to the person’s changing function.[4]

Allied health professionals contribute to the palliative care team in a range of ways: [2, 5]

Arts Therapist Use visual art-making, drama, dance and movement to improve physical, mental and emotional wellbeing
Chiropractor Provides treatment for back pain and other disorders of the musculoskeletal system
Dietitian Optimise nutritional intake, develop nutrition plan focused on the person’s needs and wishes
Medical Radiation Practitioner Provide diagnostic imaging and radiation therapy to assist with treatment and symptom management
Music Therapist Provide opportunities for music-based experiences to improve quality of life
Occupational Therapist Support continued or adjusted participation in valued and essential everyday activities
Physiotherapist Maximise functional independence and help to provide relief from symptoms such as breathlessness and fatigue
Psychologists Provide expert psychological assessments and interventions to effectively address often complex psychological issues
Social Workers Provide counselling and support, expertise in solving practical problems, financial advice and support and advocate where necessary, make referrals to other agencies and provide support for grief and bereavement
Speech Pathologist Develop strategies to support communication and swallowing.

Rehabilitative palliative care is an interdisciplinary holistic model of care which integrates rehabilitation, enablement, self-management and self-care. The aim of rehabilitative palliative care is to optimise function and wellbeing, by empowering the person with a life-limiting illness and enabling them to live as independently and completely as possible, with choice and autonomy, as their illness progresses.[6]

Case Study

The occupational therapist visits Bob to assess his situation. The therapist explores how Bob’s illness has affected his day-to-day functioning. Bob speaks to the occupational therapist about his physical and social function. Bob identifies the following problems:

  • Decreased mobility
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty maintaining social contact.
  1. How can you use the knowledge from your specific profession to promote physical and social function for the problems Bob has identified? Search relevant literature to identify the evidence to support your answers.
  2. What other healthcare professionals will you include within the care plan?
  3. What specific assistance will these professionals provide to Bob?
  4. What strategies would you use to ensure an effective team approach to managing Bob’s care?
  1. CareSearch. Interdisciplinary Teams. 2018  [cited 2019 January 9].
  2. CareSearch. Roles of Allied Health Professionals. Information for Allied Health 2017  [cited 2017 May 3]; Available from:
  3. Badger, S., R. Macleod, and A. Honey, “It’s not about treatment, it’s how to improve your life”: The lived experience of occupational therapy in palliative care. Palliative and Supportive Care, 2015. 14(3): p. 225-231.
  4. CareSearch. Specific Complementary Therapies. Clinical Evidence 2017  [cited 2017 April 18]; Available from:
  5. Allied Health Professions Australia, Allied Health Professions. 2019. [cited 2020 Jan 7] Available from:
  6. Hospice UK. What is rehabilitative palliative care? 2017  [cited 2017 17 March]; Available from: