Sep 19, 2018

By Jane Brown

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New research suggests more Canadians could benefit from palliative care, reducing the number of visits to intensive care and emergency departments for terminally ill Canadians in their last months of life.

A new survey by the Canadian Institute for Health Information reveals 75 percent of Canadians want to die at home. The report also suggests that people who access palliative home care services in their final year of life are 2.5 times more likely to want to live at home until their dying day.

It’s estimated that nearly 90 percent of all Canadians could benefit from palliative care in their last year of life, but only 15 percent of people who died in 2016-2017 received publicly funded palliative home care.

Additional highlights from the data show that:

Few Canadians (15%) have early access to palliative care in the community.

62% of Canadians who received palliative care did so in an acute care hospital and mostly in their last month of life.

Nearly half (47%) of palliative care patients in Canadian hospitals waiting to be discharged to a more appropriate setting (such as residential hospice or at home with support) died before they could be discharged.

Canadians with cancer are 3 times more likely to receive palliative care than Canadians with other conditions, despite noted benefits for people with diseases like heart failure, dementia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Canadians between the ages of 45 and 74 are more likely than younger adults and older seniors to receive palliative care.

3 out of 5 Canadian primary care physicians do not feel well prepared to help people in need of palliative care.

Palliative care refers to treatments and services designed to improve quality of life for people who live with a life-limiting condition and for their families. It is most effective when delivered by an integrated team of specialists such as doctors, nurses and social workers, and includes services like pain relief and psychological and spiritual guidance.

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