Palliation, by definition, means to treat the symptoms of an illness or condition without actually curing it. From palliation, or palliative treatment, the term “palliative care” was coined by Dr. Balfour Mount from Quebec. The term hospice care is used in other parts of the world and is interchangeable with palliative care.
The goal for palliative care is to relieve the suffering of dying patients while maintaining the best quality of life possible. Palliative care is usually reserved for people who have an illness for which treatment is no longer effective. In addition it has been determined they will likely die within a specific time frame – usually in less than a year. Early interventions in palliative care may be very minimal but, as the disease progresses and the person becomes sicker, more care will be given.
Palliative care seeks to treat the whole person. There are eight domains whose issues are addressed: the physical, psychological, social, spiritual and practical needs of the person; disease management; loss and grief; and finally end-of-life care/death management. In addition to physicians and nurses, palliative care is provided by social workers, counsellors, recreation, music and art therapists, and many other professionals that can assist the palliative patient in having the greatest quality of life possible.
However, palliative care is not simply between the patient and the medical team. Family and friends also can be a focus of this stage of treatment. Their role in providing support to the patient is invaluable.
Sadly, despite this well-rounded approach to caring for the patient who is nearing their end of life, palliative care is sometimes confused with other interventions. It is very important to distinguish between palliative care and medical assistance in dying (MAID) and assisted suicide and euthanasia. Medications in palliative care are used to reduce pain, alleviate shortness of breath, and address other symptoms associated with end of life. In contrast to the MAID option, the goal of medications in palliative care is to relieve suffering, not to hasten death.
Each of the four health authorities in Newfoundland Labrador have comprehensive palliative care programs. For questions about referral to palliative care, contact your physician or regional health authority. For more information, please visit Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association or Canadian Virtual Hospice.
Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association NL
Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association
Canadian Virtual Hospice
The Way Forward: Palliative Approach to Care
Speak Up – Advance Care Planning in Canada