The Way Forward is a new initiative that aims to begin a shift to an integrated palliative approach to care across all settings, focussing on the person and their family, and their goals of care. It means that physicians, nurses and other primary care professionals, supported by specialist palliative care teams when needed, would deliver care in many settings including patients’ homes, long-term care facilities, and in hospitals located in cities, rural communities or remote areas. It reinforces a person’s right to be actively involved in his or her own care, and strives to give patients and families a greater sense of control.
“The groups involved with The Way Forward believe that a palliative approach to care is not only needed but entirely possible,” says Sharon Baxter, Executive Director of the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association (CHPCA), and executive member of the Quality End-of-Life Care Coalition of Canada (QELCCC). “We are creating a Framework for integrating a palliative approach to care―a practical roadmap to get there because it will make such a difference to Canadians.”
What kind of difference? People with chronic, life-limiting illness have improved quality of life and reduced suffering if a palliative approach to care is integrated at an early stage and throughout the trajectory of their illness. Patients with terminal lung cancer who began receiving palliative care immediately upon diagnosis not only were happier, more mobile and in less pain as the end neared, but they also lived nearly three months longer.
The palliative approach to care is about having conversations about goals of care early and often during an illness. It’s less stressful to have discussions about advance care plans with individuals and their families early and not when they are dealing with a health crisis or in the last weeks of life.
The Way Forward framework will have principles, best practices and other resources that health care professionals and others can use to adopt an integrated palliative approach to care.
Advance care planning is a big part of the puzzle but we need to integrate all aspects of palliative care, such as pain and symptom management. Through the website, we would like to hear from patients, families, professionals and caregivers. It will help create a practical road map for better integrated hospice palliative care in Canada.
The Way Forward is possible thanks to the Government of Canada, which is providing one-time funding of $3 million to CHPCA and its partners,
from 2012-2015. Visit www.hpcintegration.ca