Most people when they hear “palliative care” think of end-of-life care. Although palliative care can be part of end-of-life care, for many patients – especially those with chronic disease or injury – palliative care can begin years before. In fact, several studies have shown that patients who access palliative care services earlier tend to live longer and have a better quality of life.
It might be more useful to think of palliative care as another layer of care on top of their treatment plan that helps them live the best that they can for as long as they do.
At the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, palliative care is offered as both an outpatient and inpatient clinic through the Regional Cancer Program. Cancer patients referred to the program work with the palliative care team for services such as symptom and pain management, assessments, and in some cases alternative treatment options. The team works with the patient’s oncologist, family doctor, and other healthcare professionals to ensure consistency and continuity of care.
How to Access Palliative Care
Palliative care services are available to all cancer patients at the Regional Cancer Program. All patients must be referred by their oncologist, primary care provider (family doctor, nurse practitioner, etc.), or another healthcare professional in the community. Inpatients admitted in 1A will be asked if they wish to speak to a member of the palliative care team.
The earlier you request palliative care services, the better. Some patients ask for palliative care services as soon as they are diagnosed with cancer, even when they have an excellent chance for full recovery. Palliative care is not only end-of-life care – as mentioned above, the palliative care team can help with symptom management, pain management, and other care services to help you live better throughout your treatment.
Early palliative care tends to lead to:
- Better symptom and pain management
- Better quality of life
- Longer life
- More time at home instead of hospitalization
Ask your oncologist for a referral.
Here are some community and regional resources related to palliative care, symptom management, and end-of-life care: