Palliative care

Learn about palliative care. Find out how it can help improve your quality of life if you are living with a life-threatening or serious illness.

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What is palliative care?

If you have a life-threatening condition or a serious illness, palliative care can:

  • help improve your quality of life
  • reduce or relieve your physical and psychological symptoms
  • help you have a more peaceful and dignified death
  • support your family and those you care for while you are dying and afterward

This type of treatment can involve:

  • pain management
  • symptom management, such as:
    • nausea
    • anxiety
    • depression
    • difficulty breathing
  • social, psychological and emotional support
  • caregiver support

These services can be appropriate for people of all ages. They aim to make you and your loved ones feel as comfortable as possible. This can be done through personalized treatment plans that meet your needs and those of your family.

Information and support on palliative and end-of-life care, loss and grief can also be found at the Canadian Virtual Hospice.

Who can provide palliative care?

Palliative care can address suffering experienced in all areas of your life. Because of this, a diverse team is typically responsible for providing palliative care. The team may include:

  • physicians
  • nurses
  • pharmacists
  • social workers
  • trained volunteers
  • home care workers
  • bereavement support workers
  • informal caregivers who work to meet the needs of you and your loved ones, such as a family member

There is no single national palliative care program. The type of care and training available for health care providers can be different by jurisdiction.

Where are palliative care services provided?

Palliative care can be provided in a variety of settings, such as:

  • hospitals
  • at home
  • long-term care facilities
  • hospices (a home for people living with a terminal illness)

While hospitals are designed to address severe and immediate needs, they may not be the best location for comfortable end-of-life care. Also, delivery of and access to palliative and hospice care varies across Canada. This is due to differences in:

  • needs of society
  • level of funding
  • regional demographics
  • organization of health care services

This is why governments and health care institutions are developing better models of palliative care in Canada where:

  • service is provided through a range of settings and providers
  • the needs of family and friend caregivers are recognized
  • more health care providers are trained in palliative treatments
  • advance care planning is encouraged as part of treatment plans

To find out more about palliative care, talk to your doctor, home care worker or other health care provider. Information and support on palliative and end-of-life care, loss and grief can also be found at the Canadian Virtual Hospice.

You can also contact the national palliative care association or the palliative care association in your province or territory:

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