At some point, your doctor may say that your cancer has advanced or that your cancer is “incurable” and standard treatments are no longer effective and may be doing more harm than good. This is often a very scary and emotional time in your cancer journey. Your experience during this transition will greatly be influenced by the quality of information that you have, how prepared you feel and community resources that are available to you.
Hospice, palliative care (or end of life care) is designed to help you and your family cope in the face of a life-limiting illness. The goal of this type of care is to help you live each remaining day to the fullest and help you and your loved ones navigate this very emotional part of your cancer journey. Hospice/palliative care strives to support you as the decision-maker in your care. Good hospice/palliative care involves meeting not only your physical needs, but embracing your emotional, spiritual and practical needs in ways that are sensitive to your specific beliefs and culture.
Rather than a specific place, hospice/palliative care is a philosophy—a program of care and support that envelops you and your family in your community. Care may take place in your home, in a residential care facility, in a hospice or hospital, depending on your individual situation. Anticipatory grief support (counseling to help deal with grief when you know there will be a loss but it has not yet occurred) is often valuable to your family and friends.
Bereavement services are also an important component, offered to your family and friends in need of support as they continue with their own lives after the loss of a loved one. Caregiver support is offered in many communities. Generally these services are free for family members and loved ones and are provided by community hospice societies.
Seeking hospice/palliative care earlier in the transition from curative care, where the focus is both to improve length of life and quality of life, to symptom care where the focus is primarily on quality of life, allows you and your family time to prepare for these challenges more smoothly. Typically, anyone who has been given an approximate prognosis of 6-12 months to live can register for hospice/palliative care. In some provinces, it may be fewer than 6 months.
Access to the full scope of services varies considerably depending on where you live.
Regardless of where you live, hospice/palliative care programs are made possible through collaborative partnerships. For more information on hospice palliative care resources in your local community, speak with your health care team or contact your local hospice society.
Advanced Care Planning
While it may be difficult to begin conversations about end-of life-wishes, it is very important to have this critical conversation with your loved ones, in order for them to know and understand what your wishes may be should a critical event occur that would not allow you to express them yourself. Families that are able to have this vital discussion can help ensure that your final wishes are respected. We encourage you to visit the Advanced Care Planning website, to help you “start the conversation about end of life care.”
Compassionate Care Leave Program
All employees can take up to 6 months of compassionate care leave to look after a family member who is gravely ill. The Canada Labour Code guarantees your job security. You can apply for this program in the same way as you would for Employment Insurance (EI). This program allows for a percentage of your pay to cover you during this leave. This leave of absence can be shared by two or more people when looking after the same family member, but the total amount of leave taken between all cannot exceed 6 months in total.
Other Financial Resources
Some life insurance companies will pay out a portion of the death proceeds of a life insurance policy while you are alive, in the event of terminal illness. These funds can help to pay necessary expenses or to fulfill a dream.