Palliative end of life care is a form of health care that focuses on relieving pain symptoms and provides emotional and spiritual support for those living with or dying from an incurable illness. It can begin at any point during your treatment to improve your quality of life and people can often move in and out of palliative treatment. Many people often begin palliative care early on in his or her diagnosis and integrate it into their treatment plan. This is why we have provided more information about integrated palliative care in the Treatment section.
If you have not yet accessed palliative care you can do so through various forms. You can receive palliative end of life care at home or through hospitals, long-term care homes, or hospices.
Home care is a support to help people with health problems remain in their homes and live as independently as possible. It can also support families who are caring for a loved one at home. The person receiving home care can have minor health problems and disabilities or may need more complex care. Home care services may include: nursing; help with bathing, dressing, and feeding; physiotherapy; social work; companionship; dietitian services; housekeeping; respite care; and palliative care.
Home care can be difficult to access. According to Statistics Canada, “In 2012, nearly half a million Canadians, or 461,000 individuals 15 years and older, needed help or care in the 12 previous months for a chronic health condition, but did not receive it.” See if home care can be accessed in your community by speaking with your palliative and healthcare teams or a social worker at your cancer centre.
The Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association has developed an extensive directory of palliative care information and services across Canada. The directory allows you to search by province to find a service in your area or by category to find information relating to your needs.
The Canadian Virtual Hospice provides support and personalized information about palliative and end-of-life care to patients, family members, health care providers, researchers and educators. The site provides information about palliative care and online support services including discussion forums, peer stories, and frequently asked questions.
On June 17, 2016, Parliament passed a law that made doctor-assisted dying legal in Canada. The law permits doctor-assisted dying for persons age 18 and over who have a “grievous and irremediable medical condition” that causes “enduring physical or psychological suffering that is intolerable,” who have made a voluntary request for a doctor-assisted death, and whose natural death is “reasonably foreseeable.”
In the provinces, medical associations have issued guidelines for their members on how to proceed with doctor-assisted dying. Speak to your medical team to learn more about doctor-assisted dying.
Dying with Dignity Canada offers more information on doctor-assisted dying and its legislation.