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Palliative Care

Palliative care is a holistic approach to active and supportive care for patients and their families facing a life-threatening illness. The aim is to prevent and ease suffering, while promoting an excellent quality of life right up until the end of life.

We endorse the following definition provided by Advancing High Quality, High Value Palliative Care In Ontario: A Declaration of Partnership and Commitment to Action

Hospice palliative care is a philosophy of care that aims to relieve suffering and improve the quality of living and dying. It strives to help individuals and families to:

  • address physical, psychological, social, spiritual and practical issues, and their associated expectations, needs, hopes and fears
  • prepare for and manage end-of-life choices and the dying process
  • cope with loss and grief
  • treat all active issues
  • prevent new issues from occurring
  • promote opportunities for meaningful and valuable experiences, and personal and spiritual growth.

Hospice palliative care:

  • Is appropriate for any individual and/or family living with, or at risk of developing, a life-threatening illness, at any time they are prepared to accept this type of care and support
  • May enhance other types of care - including restorative or rehabilitative care - or may become the total focus of care
  • Is most effectively delivered by an inter-professional team of health care providers skilled in all aspects of palliative care - including volunteer staff.
  • Is most effective when the care is integrated at the clinical, organizational and overall system level.
  • Is person and family centred, respecting people’s social, spiritual and cultural practices.
  • Includes end-of-life care, but is not limited to the time immediately preceding death.

When does palliative care begin?

Palliative care can be provided at any stage of the disease, from diagnosis through survivorship or the end of life.

  • Alongside therapies that are intended to cure or modify disease (such as surgery or chemotherapy)
  • As the main focus of care for patients and families once curative treatments are no longer effective
  • Near the end of life to prepare the person and his or her family for the dying process
  • After death, in the form of support for bereaved family and loved ones  

Who provides palliative care?

Healthcare professionals, including physicians, nurses, allied health professionals and community health service workers can provide palliative care.

Where is palliative care provided?

All healthcare settings including hospitals, primary care, hospices, communities, homes, and long-term care facilities may provide palliative care.

How does palliative care meet individual needs?

People of any age, ethnicity, culture or religion can benefit from palliative care. It is appropriate for those with cancer and non-cancer diagnoses. It is tailored to a person’s needs and preferences.

Conversations about a person’s illness understanding, their values and beliefs, and their goals and wishes for future care are a key part of palliative care approach. These goals of care and advance care planning discussions should happen early rather than at the end of life, and should be ongoing as a person’s needs and preferences may change.

Palliative Care Organizations

Visit these organizations for more palliative care tools and education for healthcare professionals, and information for patients, families and caregivers.

  • Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association
    A national organization that aims to advance and advocate for quality end-of-life/hospice palliative care in Canada. Website provides: resources for healthcare professionals and caregivers; information about projects and advocacy; a resource commons; a marketplace for purchasing educational materials.
  • Hospice Palliative Care Ontario
    A provincial organization that aims to inform policy and promote awareness, education, knowledge transfer and best practices for quality hospice palliative care in Ontario. Website provides: information for families and caregivers; resources for members and professionals; information about Hospice Palliative Care.
  • Canadian Virtual Hospice
    Support and personalized information about palliative and end-of-life care to patients, family members, healthcare providers, researchers and educators. Website includes: articles on palliative care topics; discussion forums; upcoming courses and conferences for professionals.
  • Pallium Canada
    A national education community-of-practice (CoP) with professional development resources and tools for healthcare providers. Resources include: Learning Essential Approaches to Palliative and End of Life Care (LEAP) program; a CFPC-accredited palliative care course aimed at interprofessional palliative care education; the Pallium Palliative Pocketbook, a peer-reviewed resource guide for clinical practitioners.

Last modified: Thu, Apr 30, 2015
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