What does end-of-life care mean for those without a home?

Image: What does end-of-life care mean for those without a home?

Three-quarters of Canadians (74%) report having thought about end-of-life care (CHPCA fact sheet).

It is a growing topic that’s being increasingly researched by many people.

Being diagnosed with a palliative illness is often an emotional journey. Many people who need palliative care are fortunate enough to be supported by a network of family and friends who support their care in the home. But what happens when you’re palliative, have no support system and have no home?

Statistics show that the rate of premature death among the homeless population is roughly 4-7 times higher than that of the general population (Toronto Star). Despite a keen interest in palliative care and specific preferences for location of death, 34 -59% of the time homeless patients die in hospitals (St. Michaels Hospital).

What is being done to address this?

In Toronto, Spectrum Health Care has partnered with Inner City Health Associates and Toronto Central Community Access Centre to provide palliative care services to the homeless through PEACH (Palliative Education and Care of the Homeless program).

PEACH provides individuals who normally would not qualify for home care, due to a lack of residence, with clinicians from the community, hospital and home care sector who are trained and educated in palliative care services. Our Spectrum Health Care nurses are responsible for providing the necessary care, planning and symptom relief management that palliative patients require during their end of life journey. Often this care is administered in a shelter where the individual can peacefully and comfortably pass but on rare occasions it is administered on the street.

Since the inception of the program, we have been involved in the care of a number of palliative homeless individuals and played a leading role in bringing home and palliative care to a population that is often marginalized. The PEACH program continues to grow and provide homeless populations with a team of professionals who are committed to the provision of comfortable and dignified palliative services.