Palliative Care

Supportive and palliative care

According to the Canadian Virtual Hospice, ‘palliative care is a type of health care for patients and families facing life-threatening illness. These services help patients have the best possible quality of life right up until the end. Palliative care is also called end-of-life, or comfort care’ [16].

Quality palliative care [17]:

  • focuses on the concerns of patients and their families;
  • pays close attention to physical symptoms such as pain, nausea, loss of appetite and confusion;
  • considers the emotional and spiritual concerns of patients and families;
  • ensures that care is respectful and supportive of patient dignity;
  • respects the social and cultural needs of patients and families;
  • uses a team approach that may include volunteers, social workers and spiritual leaders in addition to medical staff.

Palliative care does not necessarily end when your love one passes away. Many hospice palliative care centres offer bereavement programs for the friends and family of the patient following their death. They may need help with managing strain and stress, and an additional support system as they grieve.

Palliative care faqs

Are palliative care and hospice the same thing? In Canada, the two terms are the same thing. Some people refer to hospices as centres in their community in comparison to a centre inside a hospital.

Who benefits from palliative care? Family, friends and the individual who has a life-threatening illness will benefit from palliative care. The end-of-life is difficult – these centres try to make it as easy on the individual and support system as possible.

What is involved in palliative care? Palliative care aims to (via

  • Affirm life and regard dying as a normal process
  • Provide relief from pain and other distressing symptoms
  • Integrates the psychological and spiritual aspects of patient care
  • Offer a support system to help patients live as actively as possible until death
  • Offer a support system to help the family cope during the patient’s illness and in their own bereavement

Who provides palliative care? Who is on the palliative care team is determined by the needs of the patients and his or her family. The team often includes nurses with specialized palliative care skills, the person’s family doctor, a physician specialized in palliative care, a social worker, a spiritual counsellor, and a pharmacist.

Where can people receive palliative care? People can receive palliative care (via

  • At home – Palliative care is often provided at people’s homes through home care programs. These programs provide professional nursing care a variety of other services. Other services may include volunteer services, day programs offered for the ill family member in their community, pain and symptom management teams and 24-hour emergency response teams.
  • Hospitals – Some hospitals have palliative care units with a palliative care team made up of health professionals who specialize in palliative care – some hospitals will set aside beds in different units of the hospital for people who are in need of palliative care.
  • Long-term care facilities – Palliative care services may also be offered in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes. It is sometimes necessary for residents who need more specialized palliative care services to enter a hospital. Long-term care facilities are less likely than hospitals to have specialized palliative care units
  • Hospices – In Canada, there are only a few residential hospices-separate buildings or apartments where palliative care is provided in a home-like setting. Some people move into hospices to receive palliative care on a 24-hour basis.

Who pays for palliative care? If you chose to receive palliative care in a hospital, it is likely to be funded by the provincial health plan. These plans usually include cost of drugs, medical supplies and equipment while the person is in the hospital.

If the patient will be using at-home palliative care services, it may be paid for by the provincial health plan as part of a home care program. These plans do not always include the cost of drugs and equipment used at home. Some plans allow only a certain number of paid hours of professional and home support services. After the hours are used up, people need to look for other ways to pay for these services.

Bereavement support is generally cost-free. It is important that people requiring palliative care and their families find out as soon as possible who pays for what and what additional financial assistance may be available.

For more information on palliative care, potential palliative care benefits and palliative care centres, click here.



[15] “Melanoma – Questions to Ask the Doctor.” Cancer.Net. American Society of Clinical Oncology, Sept. 2015. Web. 06 Oct. 2015.
[16] “What Is Palliative Care?” What Is Palliative Care? Canadian Virtual Hospice, 2015. Web. 06 Oct. 2015.
[17] Information taken from the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association