Historically, palliative care was only offered in the last weeks or months of life when all curative treatments had been exhausted.
However, palliative care has evolved over the years. Now anyone with life-limiting illness can benefit from a palliative approach to care, including individuals with chronic disease and frailty.
The number of deaths in Canada is expected to increase by 40 per cent in 2026, to 330,000 deaths; and by 65 per cent in 2036 to 425,000 deaths (Government of Canada, 2018).
Individuals with cancer are three times more likely to receive palliative care than individuals with other forms of chronic disease.
Only 10 per cent of deaths happen suddenly. The remaining 90 per cent will require care and support throughout the illness, which may progress over many months or years.
Only 20 per cent of Canadians will die with an illness that has a recognizable terminal phase.
As health-care providers, we all have a responsibility to:
- Identify individuals who could benefit from a palliative approach to care;
- be able to utilize basic assessment skills and tools to determine symptom burden (physical, psychosocial and spiritual) in individuals with life-limiting illness;
- have basic knowledge in pain and symptom management (pharmacological and non-pharmacological);
- have a basic skill set and comfort level in advance care planning conversations; and
- have an understanding of the resources available that support individuals and families facing life-limiting illness in meeting their full range of needs (physical, psychosocial and spiritual).