Palliative and Supportive Care

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Palliative care is an approach to care that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing problems associated with life-limiting illness.

Palliative care focuses on the prevention and relief of suffering through early identification and assessment and treatment of pain, symptoms, and other physical, psychosocial and spiritual challenges.  It can be offered from the time of diagnosis of a life-threatening illness, through curative therapy, and at end-of-life. 

Palliative and Supportive Care:

  • Provides relief from pain and other distressing symptoms
  • Seeks to elicit, respect, and integrate patient values/goals into care
  • Integrates the psychological and spiritual aspects of patient care
  • Offers a support system to help patients live as actively as possible
  • Offers a support system to help the family cope
  • Uses a team approach to address the needs of patients and families
  • Can enhance quality of life, and positively influence the course of illness
  • Is appropriate early in the course of life-threatenting illness, in conjunction with other therapies that are intended to prolong life
  • Does not intend to hasten death
  • Affirms life and regards dying as a normal process 

What is End of Life Care?

End-of-life (EOL) care is part of palliative care.  EOL care refers to the care of a person during the last weeks, days and hours of their life, when it has become clear that the person is in a progressive state of decline and curative treatments are no longer possible or desired.

Who is the Palliative Care Team?

  • Physicians
  • Palliative Care Nurse Practitioners and Registered Nurse Consultants
  • Other members of the interdisciplinary team across Niagara Health
  • Community healthcare partners in collaboration with Niagara Health

Common Myths about Palliative Care

Myth #1:

Treatment stops when palliative care starts. You may think that palliative care signals the end of disease management and related treatment. In reality, some disease-oriented treatments improve symptoms and increase quality of life and therefore may continue to be provided as a comfort measure while receiving palliative care.

Myth #2:

Palliative care is most appropriate for patients who will likely die soon. Palliative care is not just for patients who are dying. A palliative approach means focusing on improving quality of life, and a holistic focus for those with life-limiting illness regardless of the stage of illness.

Myth #3:

Raising the topic of palliative or end-of-life care diminishes hope. It is very important to have these discussions early to protect a patient’s quality of life as long as possible and find out what’s important to them. People can and often wish to articulate what’s important to them through advance care planning—a process that encourages reflection on values, wishes, and goals.  This also helps loved ones to be aware of a patient’s preferences in the event that they become incapable of communicating their wishes related to care. These discussions do not usually diminish hope but shift it to a hope for comfort, dignity, and respect for a patient’s expressed wishes.

How to Inquire about Palliative Care 

If you or your loved one is an inpatient at Niagara Health, you may ask your inpatient physician or a member of the interdisciplinary team (i.e. nurse, therapist)  for a referral to the inpatient palliative care service.

If you or your loved one is in the community and feel the need for further assistance, please contact your family physician or the Community Care Access Centre (home care).

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