Palliative and end-of-life care
Learn about palliative care and the supports that are available.
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Ontario is working to provide patients with more choices for palliative and end-of-life care.
This includes investing in more hospice and palliative care across the province and expanding caregiver supports that help families and loved ones support palliative patients at home and in their communities. The Ontario Palliative Care Network, which is part of Ontario Health, is funded by the ministry to advise on a coordinated, patient-centred approach for hospice palliative care across the province.
What is palliative care
Palliative care refers to care for patients and their families who are facing a serious, life-limiting illness. Palliative care is patient-centred coordinated care that aims to relieve suffering and improve quality of life for patients and their families at all stages of the illness. Palliative care focuses on a holistic approach to treat the impact that an illness has on patients and their families and is often provided in addition to clinical care that focuses on treating the illness itself.
The types of palliative care services that may be provided include:
- physician and nursing services to assess and manage the progression of the illness (this includes providing pain and symptom management to improve comfort and quality of life)
- personal support services (such as homemaking)
- psychological, social services, spiritual and bereavement support
- other services such as physiotherapy, caregiver support, pharmacy
Where to find care
Palliative care can be provided or accessed through:
- your primary health care provider (such as a family doctor)
- your local Home and Community Care Support Services organization which can provide care coordination for care in your home, refer you to residential hospice or provide other support services
- your local hospital
- your long-term care home
Note: Many types of palliative care services are provided directly by primary health care providers who are already treating individuals for disease. For individuals requiring more specialized services, primary health care providers can provide appropriate referrals.
Where palliative care is provided
Palliative care is delivered in all care settings, including the following:
- individual homes
- residential and community-based hospices
- long-term care homes
There is no cost to patients for medically necessary palliative care services in their homes, hospices or hospitals. This includes any treatments that a physician may provide. While residents of long-term care homes may pay a co-payment, these funds represent the individual’s contribution to food and accommodations — not palliative care services.
The Ontario Caregiver Organization supports caregivers across Ontario with a suite of programs and resources including the 24/7 Ontario Caregiver Helpline
Your local Home and Community Care Support Services organization can also provide more information or local caregiver supports.
Advance Care Planning
Advance Care Planning is a process that encourages patients, family members and health care providers to talk about patients’ health care wishes, in case there comes a time when the patient may not be able to make his or her own health care decisions. While Advanced Care Planning conversations can be difficult, they help support patient-centred palliative care and help friends and family by taking away some of the stress and uncertainty that comes at an already emotional time.
Medical assistance in dying
As of June 6, 2016, medical assistance in dying is permitted in Canada. This has not changed how Ontario patients with life-limiting illness access other medical treatments, including palliative care.
Based on the experience of other countries, only a small number of Ontarians will choose to access medical assistance in dying. Patients with life-limiting illnesses will generally choose to access palliative care and other treatments.
Ontario Provincial Framework for Palliative Care
With the passage of the Compassionate Care Act, 2020, Ontario is continuing to improve equitable access to high-quality, palliative care for individuals, families and caregivers in all regions of Ontario. The Ontario Provincial Framework for Palliative Care can be used as a tool to help provide better, connected care across the province, and guide future work to ensure that all Ontarians receive the respect, dignity and care they deserve at every stage of life and across the continuum of care.