Palliative Care

Palliative care is a holistic approach to active and supportive care for patients and their families facing a life-threatening illness. The aim is to prevent and ease suffering, while promoting an excellent quality of life right up until the end of life.

An important objective of palliative care can be relief of pain and other symptoms although palliative care also meets psychological, social, cultural, emotional and spiritual needs of each person and family. Palliative care services are helpful not only when a person is approaching death but also during the earlier stages of an illness.

  • Palliative Care Toolkit for Aboriginal Communities This resource toolkit and reference material is meant for First Nations, Métis and Inuit families and communities to help support individuals with cancer who have palliative care needs. These education materials can be used by anyone in the community.

When does palliative care begin?

Palliative care can be provided at any stage of the disease, from diagnosis through survivorship or the end of life.

  • Alongside therapies that are intended to cure or modify disease (such as surgery or chemotherapy)
  • As the main focus of care for patients and families once curative treatments are no longer effective
  • Near the end of life to prepare the person and his or her family for the dying process
  • After death, in the form of support for bereaved family and loved ones  

Who benefits from palliative care?

Individuals and families living with life-limiting illnesses benefit from palliative care. Many people who receive palliative care have cancer. Palliative care also helps those living with other diseases such as advanced heart, respiratory and kidney disease, Alzheimer disease, AIDS, ALS and Multiple Sclerosis.

Who provides palliative care?

Healthcare professionals, including physicians, nurses, allied health professionals and community health service workers can provide palliative care.

Where is palliative care provided in the Toronto Region?

In the Toronto region, palliative care can be provided in four care settings:

You can find more information about accessing palliative care in our region on the End of Life Page.

How do you refer to palliative care services in the Toronto Region?

  • In the home you refer to:
  • To apply for a bed in a residential hospice or palliative care unit you use the Common Referral Form and send this to the corresponding institution.

Common Referral Form

The multi-use Palliative Care Common Referral Form (PC-CRF) should be used when referring a patient for most palliative care-related service in the region. 

Palliative Care Organizations

Visit these organizations for more palliative care tools and education for healthcare professionals, and information for patients, families and caregivers.

  • Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association
    A national organization that aims to advance and advocate for quality end-of-life/hospice palliative care in Canada. Website provides: resources for healthcare professionals and caregivers; information about projects and advocacy; a resource commons; a marketplace for purchasing educational materials.
  • Hospice Palliative Care Ontario
    A provincial organization that aims to inform policy and promote awareness, education, knowledge transfer and best practices for quality hospice palliative care in Ontario. Website provides: information for families and caregivers; resources for members and professionals; information about Hospice Palliative Care.
  • Canadian Virtual Hospice
    Support and personalized information about palliative and end-of-life care to patients, family members, healthcare providers, researchers and educators. Website includes: articles on palliative care topics; discussion forums; upcoming courses and conferences for professionals.
  • Pallium Canada
    A national education community-of-practice (CoP) with professional development resources and tools for healthcare providers. Resources include: Learning Essential Approaches to Palliative and End of Life Care (LEAP) program; a CFPC-accredited palliative care course aimed at interprofessional palliative care education; the Pallium Palliative Pocketbook, a peer-reviewed resource guide for clinical practitioners.
  • Ontario Palliative Care Network
    The Ontario Palliative Care Network (OPCN) is a partnership of community stakeholders, health service providers and health systems planners who are developing a coordinated, standardized approach for delivering palliative care services in the province. It supports and aligns with the Ministry's Patients First: A Roadmap to Strengthen Home and Community Care, which highlights a commitment to improved access and equity in palliative and end-of-life care at home and in the community.
  • Cancer Care Ontario
    Cancer Care Ontario is the Ontario government's advisor on the cancer and renal systems, as well as on access to care for key health services, Cancer Care Ontario (CCO) drives continuous improvement in disease prevention and screening, the delivery of care and the patient experience for chronic diseases. Learn more about Ontario's Palliative Care Strategy and their Palliative Care Tools.