Purpose of review Health service planning requires demographic, clinical, and health systems data and is unique to each health system. Planning for palliative care in older people must include patients and their carers. This review explores literature from the last 24 months. Recent findings The proportion of people living in skilled nursing facilities is increasing and many residents require quality palliative care. Simultaneously, the complexity of care for older people is also increasing. Systematic approaches to improving palliative care in these facilities have shown benefits that are cost-effective. Although advance care planning is widely promoted, a randomized controlled trial failed to show the benefits seen in nonrandomized trials. This requires a reconceptualization of current programs that seek to increase uptake. Caregivers take on complex decision-making which can be stressful. By contrast, patients are often very confident that the people who are close to them will make good decisions on their behalf. Specific subgroups considered in this review include carers (and the challenges they face), the 'oldest old' and people with dementia. Summary Excellent research is being done to improve the care of older people with palliative care needs. Ultimately, how can key findings be incorporated into clinical care?