Most Canadians support access to high-quality palliative care: survey

Massage Therapy Canada staff
September 27, 2016
By Massage Therapy Canada staff
EDMONTON – Majority of Canadians support a national standard on palliative care, according to an Ipsos survey released by Palliative Care Matters.

Support for leadership from the federal government was very strong, with 86 per cent of respondents wanting to see national standards developed and implemented by the federal government. Support is high for palliative care becoming an insured service under the Canada Health Act at 85 per cent, with 53% of those strongly agreeing. Canadians also want the Government of Canada to prepare a document outlining its plan for a palliative care program (89 pere cent) and 79 per cent say they would read it.

The survey results are an essential part of the evidence that a panel of Canadians will weigh at the Consensus Development Conference being held in Ottawa, November 7-9, 2016, along with presentations from leading researchers in the field.

"The survey results show strong support for high quality palliative care for all Canadians, whether they live in rural and remote areas or in urban centres," said Fred Horne, co-chair of the Consensus Development Conference and a former Alberta minister of health. "Canadians are also strongly supportive of palliative care in a range of settings, including hospitals, hospices, and in the home. They believe programs should be comprehensive and address physical, emotional and human dimensions of care."

The president of the Canadian Medical Association, commenting on the survey, said the results show that "we need a vision for palliative care in the country."

"The research shows that almost one in four Canadians has cared for someone or is actively caring for someone right now and we need to create the right system to support them. In order to do this successfully and sustainably, we need all five health care partners involved – the people, governments, universities, health care managers as well as the profession," Dr. Granger Avery said.

Canadians were also clear that compassion matters. While pain management and help with daily living were seen as the most important elements of palliative care, Canadians want to see programs and providers that treat them with compassion. They value caregivers who are specifically trained in palliative care, including someone in the system, who can coordinate services (88 per cent).

"Palliative care provides comfort and support to patients and families during a life limiting illness, at the end stages of life and when dealing with grief and loss," said Sharon Baxter, executive director, Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association. "While Canadians strongly value hospice palliative care, overall awareness is low."

Only 58 per cent of Canadians are aware of what palliative care involves on an unaided basis and 55 per cent are aware of end-of-life care. Less than half are aware of residential hospice care (49 per cent) or advance care planning (36 per cent). Awareness of federal Compassionate Care Benefits is low at 15 per cent.

"This survey lays the foundation for the next phase of this initiative," said Karen Macmillan, executive lead for Palliative Care at Covenant Health and conference co-chair. "The results, along with research from leading experts, will be presented at the Consensus Development Conference and inform the lay panel's consensus statement on future directions for palliative care in Canada. We want professionals, patients and caregivers from across Canada to speak up and have their points of view represented at the conference."

Complete results and conference details are available at www.palliativecarematters.ca.

The Canadian Partnership Against Cancer provided financial support for the Ipsos survey.

Palliative Care Matters is a national initiative that aims to further the development of a national palliative care strategy through a three-part process that includes gathering input from the public and experts through research, holding the Consensus Development Conference in November, and issuing a report from the Conference Board of Canada outlining policy options and possible implementation plans early 2017.

Palliative Care Matters asked 1,540 Canadians what they wanted to see happen with palliative care in the country. The poll was conducted online from August 2 to 11, 2016, and the associated margin of error is +/-2.5 per cent. The research questions were based on an analysis of recommendations made in previous reports on palliative care and input from a series of focus groups held in Edmonton, Toronto and Montreal.

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