Illness trajectories are changing, and people diagnosed with life-limiting or life-threatening illnesses can now live many years with their condition. Their time of death is often sudden and difficult to predict, which means that many are never offered the benefits of the palliative approach to care, which includes social support, advance care planning, and effective pain and symptom management throughout the trajectory of the illness.
When someone is diagnosed with a 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.
A palliative approach to care focuses on meeting a person’s and family’s full range of needs – physical, psychosocial and spiritual – at all stages of frailty or chronic illness, not just at the end of life. It reinforces the person’s autonomy and right to be actively involved in his or her own care – and strives to give individuals and families a greater sense of control. It supports and encourages earlier and more frequent conversations about the goals of care when patients and families are faced with a life-threatening illness.
The Way Forward initiative worked with many healthcare providers, policymakers, organizations, and families and caregivers across Canada to help Canadians with chronic or life-threatening illnesses understand the importance of advance care planning, and the hospice palliative care services that are available to them.
Visit The Way Forward initiative website for more information, to read The National Framework: A Roadmap for An Integrated Palliative Approach to Care or to Get Involved.
[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.
[ii]World Health Organization. Palliative Care. Available at http://www.who.int/hiv/topics/palliative/PalliativeCare/en/