About the Initiative
As the population ages, the prevalence of chronic and life-limiting illnesses will increase. In response, Canada must work towards a system of community-integrated palliative care. When someone is diagnosed with chronic, life-limiting illness, involving palliative care providers early can improve quality of life and reduce suffering.[i] [ii] This means that high quality hospice palliative and end-of-life care must be an integral part of health care, and available in all settings of care, including hospital, long-term/continuing care, residential hospices, shelters and individual homes. It also means that the palliative approach to care must be part of the treatment repertoire of any health care professional, supported by consultation or referral to a specialist palliative care team when necessary.
The need for end-of-life care is not simply a health issue. It is a complex social and economic issue that will affect individuals, families, communities and the workplace. Hospice palliative care programs allow patients to gain more control over their lives, manage pain and symptoms more effectively, and provide support to family and informal caregivers.[iii] Yet, our system is still very much based on a cure model with the solitary goal of cure; questions of quality of life and end-of-life care are often secondary.
Improving access to hospice palliative care through community integration is a goal that has been identified by leaders across Canada - the Quality End-of-Life Care Coalition of Canada (QELCCC), the Pallium Foundation, the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association (CHPCA) and The Honorable Sharon Carstairs, along with a number of Senate Committees. It is time to move forward.
[i] Aiken LS, Butner J, Lockhart CA, Volk-Craft BE, Hamilton G, Williams FG. (2006). Outcome evaluation of a randomized trial of the Phoenix Care intervention: program of case management and coordinated care for the seriously chronically ill. J Palliat Med. 2006 Feb;9(1):111-26.
[iii] Informal Caregivers are family members, loved ones, or friends and neighbours who provide support or care for the dying family member, loved one, or friend. A Model to Guide Hospice Palliative Care: Based on National Principles and Norms of Practice (CHPCA, 2002) defines Informal Caregivers as, "not members of an organization. They have no formal training, and are not accountable to standards of conduct or practice. They may be family members or friends."