About Palliative Care

About Palliative Care

Palliative care aims to reduce suffering and improve the quality of life for people living with a serious illness and their family and friends. It can be provided along with other treatment plans and can be offered in a range of settings, including at home, or in a care facility, hospital, hospice, or outpatient centre, depending on a person’s needs.

Palliative care focuses on quality of life of the person affected by serious illness and their family, not just the illness itself. The person receiving palliative care, and their family, are put at the centre of decision making, so that their values and wishes are included in decisions.

When a person approaches end of life, palliative care becomes increasingly important to ensure quality, coordinated care and symptom management.

(Serious illnesses can include diseases such as cancer, dementia, motor-neuron disease, end-stage kidney or lung disease, heart disease, and stroke.)

In Canada and around the world, quality palliative care:  

focuses on the needs and concerns of patients and their families 

pays close attention to physical symptoms, such as pain, nausea, loss of appetite and confusion 

considers the emotional, social, cultural and spiritual concerns of patients and families

ensures that care is respectful and supportive of patient dignity 

uses a team approach that may include volunteers, social workers and spiritual leaders, in addition to medical staff 

The palliative care team

Palliative care provides an extra layer of support to a patient’s primary physicians. It may be provided by a team who work together with the primary physician. The team may include specially trained doctors, nurses and other specialists as well as occupational therapists, spiritual counsellors or religious leaders, and trained volunteers from community organizations.

Better Early than Late

Video by Pallium

Palliative Care Myths-Episode 1

Video by Pallium

Palliative Care Myths- Episode 2

Video by Pallium

Choosing palliative care

If you or a loved one has received a serious illness diagnosis, you may want to ask your doctor about palliative care. Palliative care may be appropriate at any age and any stage in the course of illness, together with other treatment plans or therapies. Palliative care can be requested at any time – from diagnosis to bereavement.

The palliative care team


Palliative care may be provided by a team of specially trained doctors, nurses and other specialists who work together with a patient’s primary physicians to provide an extra layer of support. The palliative team can include a variety of practitioners, including occupational therapists and spiritual counsellors, as well as trained volunteers from community organizations.


Palliative Care Resources  

Canadian Virtual Hospice: www.VirtualHospice.ca

This website provides support and personalized information and resources about palliative and end-of-life care to patients, family members, health care providers, researchers and educators.

After Hours Palliative Tele-Nursing Service 

Toll-free) 8-1-1 , or for the deaf and hard of hearing, call 7-1-1 (toll-free).

This service is available 9:00 pm – 8:00 am, seven days a week, to all palliative care patients using home care services and their caregivers.

Individuals and/or caregivers can call for any type of palliative questions, information and support.

Individuals or caregivers who call the after-hours line speak first to a nurse with enhanced skills to provide advice by telephone. If they require additional support, they are referred to a specially trained palliative response nurse.

Family Caregivers of BC: www.FamilyCaregiversBC.ca  

(Toll free) 1-877-520-3267

Non-profit group provides direct support for family caregivers (support groups, referral to community organizations, support line), as well as education and engagement.

Employment Insurance Compassionate Care Benefits Program: 

Employment Insurance benefits may be paid to people who have to be away from work temporarily to provide care or support to a family member who is gravely ill and who has a significant risk of death.

A maximum of 26 weeks of compassionate care benefits may be paid to eligible people.

For information on the Employment Insurance program:


CALL 1-800-529-3742

VISIT a Service Canada Centre

BC Association of Clinical Counsellors: BC-Counsellors.org  (Toll free) 1-800-909-6303 Resource for connecting with professional counsellors in BC.

BC Bereavement Helpline: www.BCbereavementhelpline.com  (Toll free) 1-877-779-2223 Non-profit, free, and confidential service that connects the public to grief support services within BC.

Mygrief.ca: Online resource developed to help people work through their grief.

Victoria Hospice: www.VictoriaHospice.org  (Victoria) 250-370-8715 Bereavement team offers counselling to anyone in the community who is suffering loss, regardless of a prior connection to Victoria Hospice.

Lower Mainland Grief Recovery Society: lmgr.ca  (Lower Mainland) 604-696-1060 Non-profit charitable organization that organizes grief support groups in the Vancouver area.

Supportive care for patients living with cancer and their families

CLICK  www.InspireHealth.ca 

CALL (Toll free) 1-888-734-7125

Supportive care provided includes: guidance on diet, stress reduction and emotional counseling, decision making, exercise, and personal coaching.

  LivingMyCulture.ca: Online forum for people from various cultures to voice their experiences, wisdom, and traditions relating to palliative care and grief.

Advance Care Planning

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Production of this document has been made possible thanks to funding from Health Canada. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of Health Canada.