Parliamentary Committee Report Concludes Canada Provides Inadequate Palliative Care

December 6, 2011-The Ad Hoc Parliamentary Committee on Compassionate Care has released it report on compassionate and end-of-life care issues, after months of hearing from witnesses, including CARP.

In principle, the committee report notes that end-of-life care in Canada is inadequate to the needs and expectations of our ageing population. The report notes that while progress has been made, Canada still falls far short of quality end-of-life care for all, with only 16-30% of those who need it receiving palliative care.

“Even where palliative care is available,” the report says, “quality and accessibility vary based on place of residence. In Toronto, for example some parts of the GTA have palliative care services and some do not. The same is true of Montreal. This patchwork of services becomes still more pronounced in less populated regions. Many parts of Canada have no palliative care services at all.”

Ultimately, the report contends that as “our population ages, health services directed towards seniors will become a much greater need, and at present our health care system seems ill prepared for this shift.

The report recommends the development of a flexible integrated model of palliative health care delivery that reaches across the geographic, regional and cultural diversity of Canada. The report also focuses on encouraging further discussion of end-of-life issues among Canadians a national public awareness campaign on palliative and end-of-life care.

The report also recommends healthcare system navigators to guide individuals and families through the intricacies of the health care system. “Navigators help with solution identification, decision making in crisis situations, consensus building between the family and care providers, the brokerage, implementation and review of care plans. Navigation is different than case management. It is driven by the family and patient’s needs, not the health care system.”

CARP’s Contribution

CARP had an opportunity to present to the committee, advocating for strategies on home care and caregivers to fill the gap on continuing and end of life care.

Susan Eng, VP Advocacy told the committee that “aging at home is a major imperative for the formal health care and social services system which cannot adequately address the needs and expectations of growing numbers of older Canadians who must then rely on family and friends.”

“Family caregivers contribute billions of dollars’ worth of unpaid work to ensure their loved ones get the care and support they need to age at home rather than in an institution,” said Susan Eng.  “The financial and emotional burdens are nearly impossible for some especially lower income Canadians. A comprehensive strategy is needed to support family caregivers and the contributions they will continue to make to the public good. … Canadian families always stand ready to care for their loved ones and studies have shown that care in the home, properly supported and delivered, contributes to better health outcomes.”

End of life care encompasses a wide range of issues, from palliative care and assisted suicide, to caregiver support and home care. The parliamentary committee is an important recognition that as a country, we need to get better at providing all Canadian with dignified care and choices throughout and at the end of life.

To read the full report, click here