Learning About Hospice Palliative Care

Topic Overview

It's hard to have good days when being sick makes you feel sad, lonely, uncomfortable, or scared. Your quality of life can suffer, not just in your body, but also in your mind and spirit.

Hospice palliative (say "PAL-lee-uh-tiv") care is the field of medicine that helps give you more good days by providing care for those quality-of-life issues. It includes treating symptoms like pain, nausea, or sleep problems. But it can also include helping you and your loved ones to:

  • Understand your illness better.
  • Talk more openly about your feelings.
  • Decide what treatment you want or don't want.
  • Communicate better with your doctors, nurses, and each other.

In many parts of Canada, hospice care and palliative care are known as hospice palliative care. But there are differences between them, depending on the range of services they offer.

What kinds of care are involved?

Hospice palliative care is treatment to help you feel better physically, emotionally, and spiritually while doctors also treat your illness. It can include care such as pain relief, counselling, or nutrition advice. The goal is to help you feel better and to get the most out of the time you have left.

When does the care happen?

This is a kind of care for people who have illnesses that don't go away and that often get worse over time.

Where does the care happen?

Hospice palliative care is done in the place the patient calls "home." This is often the person's home. But it could also be a place like a specialized hospital, residential care facility, hospice centre, and other places.

Who provides the care?

There are doctors and nurses who specialize in this field. But your own doctor may also provide some of this care. And there are many other types of experts who may help you, like social workers, counsellors, therapists, and nutrition experts.

A family member is usually the main caregiver in the home. But the family member gets help from care experts who are on call 24 hours a day.

How is the care paid for?

Most provincial health plans and private insurance cover hospice palliative care. But the amount of coverage may vary.

Related Information


Other Works Consulted

  • National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (2013). NHPCO's Facts and Figures: Hospice Care in America. http://www.nhpco.org/sites/default/files/public/Statistics_Research/2013_Facts_Figures.pdf. Accessed March 6, 2014.
  • National Institute of Nursing Research (2011). Palliative care: The relief you need when you're experiencing the symptoms of serious illness. NIH Publication No. 11-6415. http://www.ninr.nih.gov/sites/www.ninr.nih.gov/files/palliative-care-brochure.pdf. Accessed March 6, 2014.


Current as of: December 9, 2019

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Shelly R. Garone, MD - Palliative Medicine

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