Most people approaching end-of-life want to be cared for by family and friends at home and often times, the caregivers need some help. There are many choices regarding the kind of care a loved-one receives at the end-of-life which can be determined with the help of a care team. The wishes of the patient may be outlined in a Health Care Directive or Living Will, but not always.
Palliative Care, sometimes called Comfort Care is the description used for health care of patients and families facing life threatening illness. It’s goal is to ensure the best possible quality of life until death. Palliative Care focuses on relief from pain, considers spiritual and emotional needs and respects the dignity of the patient. Care is usually provided using a team approach including contributions from social workers, volunteers, spiritual leaders as well as the medical community. Families can also find support through Palliative Care to access help in managing stress during the process and grief after the family member has died.
Palliative Care and Hospice are terms that both mean care for those facing life-limiting illness, usually in the late stages. Some people use Hospice to describe care offered in the community rather than in hospitals.
According to Statistics Canada, about a third of Canadians have provided palliative home care for a family member or friend. Compassionate Care leave is available for up to 8 weeks for caregivers to support a gravely ill family member or friend. However, a recent study showed that more home care support, financial assistance and paid time off from work would “have facilitated end-of-life care in their own home for nine in ten caregivers.”
Long-Term Care Facilities are more often becoming a place where palliative care is offered rather than transferring residents with a terminal illness to hospital. The new LTC Act in Ontario has mandated palliative care education for all staff in response to this growing trend.
To find out where care is available in your community contact your doctor, home care nurse, hospital social worker or spiritual counselor. Many organizations such at the Canadian Cancer Society or the Alzheimer Society of Canada also offer information about palliative care.
Toll free Hospice Palliative Care Information Line 1-877-203-INFO.