Older adults are the fastest-growing age group in Canada. Together with our members and partners, RTOERO advocates for critical policy improvements to address urgent needs now and create a more secure and compassionate future for everyone.
And that includes advocating for compassionate and respectful end-of-life care.
End-of-life care covers palliative and hospice care and medical assistance in dying. Provinces and territories govern end-of-life care with help from federal resources.
In 2017, Parliament passed the Framework on Palliative Care in Canada Act (Framework). Health Canada then conferred with stakeholders to identify challenges, opportunities and best practices. The research defined a five-year action plan with evaluation processes for which the federal government is responsible. The plan was tabled in 2018 and the report is expected in 2023.
For Framework details and to connect with provincial or territorial bodies responsible for end-of life care: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/health-services-benefits/palliative-care.html – s1.
Palliative care supports people living with advanced, life-limiting health issues, regardless of age. Care may be in-home, in-hospital, in a non-medical facility or in a hospice and is dedicated to improving quality of life.
Palliative care is holistic — with a team addressing the whole person. The practice manages illnesses, pain and other symptoms as well as the emotional, psychological, spiritual and cultural needs of patients. Programs help with treatment decision-making and also try to support caregivers in a variety of ways, including providing grief counselling.
In an effort to support Canadians’ end of days with compassion and respect, medical teams are collaborating with professionals who deliver standard medical care to integrate palliative practices, for cancer or heart disorders, for example.
And this partnership is paying off, figuratively and literally.
In September 2022, a report in The Canadian Medical Association Journal suggested that “adoption of a model of regionally organized, collaborative, home-based palliative care that uses shared decision-making may improve end-of-life outcomes for people with chronic heart failure.” Compared to standard-care patients, patients treated with a collaborative approach visited emergency departments less often, had shorter hospital stays and were less likely to die in hospital.
This collaboration in delivering end-of-life care also offers cost-saving measures.
The role of hospices
The modern hospice movement was founded in the 1960s by Dame Cicely Saunders, a British doctor who recognized that the terminally ill should live their last days with dignity, compassion and serenity.
“You matter because you are you,” she argued. “You matter to the last moment of your life, and we will do all we can, not only to help you die peacefully, but also to live until you die.”
Hospices provide support with the entire end-of-life experience, from providing life-affirming care to palliative individuals to supporting their loved ones through the process of death and dying and the grief that follows.
The hospice movement also respects the whole person and their family and friends and has proven to make passing easier for everyone involved.
For provincial and territorial information on hospice care, consult with the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association: chpca.ca/about-hpc.
You can take action to promote and strengthen end-of-life-care programs:
- Research palliative and hospice care in your area.
- Help people to be aware of the benefits associated with palliative and hospice practice.
- Talk to elected officials about palliative and hospice options.
- Evaluate processes you need to follow to access the care.
- Advocate for improvements and further innovations.
- Support hospices in your area.
To learn more about RTOERO’s advocacy efforts and how to participate: https://rtoero.ca/vibrant-voices/.