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A caregiver holding a patient's hand during end of life care
Research + Innovation

Palliative care isn’t about dying, it’s about living

by Sonia Woodward


What do you think of when you think of palliative care? Most of us probably think of specialized care that’s provided in a dedicated palliative ward at a hospital, or at a hospice facility, or at home surrounded by family. A place that’s set up to bring calm and comfort through the end of one’s life’s journey.

End-of-life care supports a patient’s quality of life – physical, psychosocial, and spiritual – until the end. And it’s increasingly considered a human right. Unfortunately, many British Columbians face significant barriers to this care because they are experiencing homelessness, poverty, mental illness, racism, or other structural vulnerabilities.

It’s possible there is no greater act of compassion than supporting someone through their end-of-life journey. But how can we provide the comfort and compassion of palliative care to someone who’s homeless or living with substance use disorder? And what does palliative care look like for someone living alone in a single room in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side? These are the big questions we’re asking at Providence.

Building on our clinical excellence in end-of-life care, Providence is now ready to launch a robust research program, a Professorship in Palliative Care, to study the palliative care needs of patients with advanced disease who are also experiencing structural vulnerabilities. This professorship will be the first of its kind in Western Canada and will establish Providence as a leader in this important area of patient care.

Our goal is to create a multidisciplinary centre that will contribute significantly to an emerging body of research. A centre that will advance palliative medicine to fast-track findings and knowledge into clinical care.

A centre that will develop new models of palliative care that are equitable, accessible, innovative, and compassionate for people living with structural vulnerabilities, particularly those in the Downtown East Side community. 

Dr. Gil Kimel, the head of Palliative Care at Providence, tells us: “The word ‘palliate’ comes from the Latin ‘pallium,’ which means ‘to cloak.’ And that’s what we do. We cloak our patients and we protect them as they journey through the various stages until end of life.”

Will you help us cloak our patients in compassion? Help provide end-of-life care for those who need it most. Give now.