Palliative and End-of-life Care

Elderly woman's hand being held by another person's hand

Redefining Palliative Care 

Palliative care and end-of-life care are terms often used interchangeably in the medical field. In cancer care, palliative care was historically provided at hospices for patients with a bleak prognosis in an effort to make their last days comfortable and pain-free. As a result, palliative care was defined as being end-of-life care, provided for people who were not receiving any treatment to actively treat their disease. As new research and treatment for cancer emerges, the role of palliative care has evolved. 

Today, palliative care plays an important role not only in end-of-life care, but throughout a patient’s trajectory. Recent studies show that palliative care offered to patients earlier on in their cancer journey can significantly improve quality of life during active treatment and can increase survival rates. Hospice care, or end-of-life care, is type of palliative care but the two are not mutually exclusive. It’s more than providing comfort at the end of a person’s life. Palliative care, as defined by the Canadian Hospice/Palliative Care Association, “is aimed at relief of suffering and improving the quality of life for persons who are living with or dying from advanced illness or is bereaved.” Focusing on a broad range of physical and psychological impacts from cancer, it can include:

  • pain and symptom management
  • caregiver support 
  • psychological support
  • cultural support
  • emotional support
  • spiritual support

You can learn more about the Palliative Radiotherapy Program at the London Regional Cancer Centre here.

 A Culturally Competent Approach to Palliative Care

As a health care provider, a culturally competent approach to palliative care means supporting the spiritual and cultural beliefs of your patients. When interacting with First Nations, Inuit and Metis (FNIM) communities, the ability to understand, appreciate, and respond to their needs can have a substantial impact on the patient experience. Watch the video below to learn more about providing culturally competent care to FNIM communities.


Indigenous Voices: Stories of Serious Illness and Grief
In this video and print series, First Nations, Inuit and Métis from across Canada share stories about living with serious illness and grief. The series was developed by a national team that included Indigenous researchers, health care providers, people living with advanced illness and families.

The series includes:

  • Four main videos
  • 170 short video clips organized by theme
  • Eight patient and family handouts on various palliative care topics

 To view the Indigenous Voices series go to:
My Grief is a free and confidential online resource that allows people to explore their grief from the comfort of their own home, at any time of day, and at their own pace. is also an educative tool for those working in health care.