Compassion in Canada

Sometimes when you think outside the box with the right intentions, things happen for the good. The session “Showcase Canada: Introducing Canadian Initiatives in Hospice Palliative End-of Life Care was a great overview of such a vision. The presentation was dispersed with great facts about Canadians and great pictures of many areas I want to add for my next trip.

In Canada, the current median age is 40 and the life expectancy is 81.29 years with 80% of the population living in an urban area. Health care is publically funded with very little private insurance. Did you also know that Canadians like to talk about famous Canadians such as Justin Bieber? Baby, Baby, Baby OH or is that eh?

Interestingly I took a trolley tour of Vancouver yesterday, the tour guide spoke of how he is covered by his wife’s medical plan and that if he had to buy insurance it would only cost him $110.00 per month and all things are covered including medications. He stated even surgery for any diagnosis. I have not formally checked this, but this made me wonder, how can this be possible?

I was intrigued because in many conversations in the United States we compare ourselves to this system and currently in a health care reform period. So how can you cover someone for $110 a month and they feel supported and cared for according as my trolley driver? I am open to discussion.

In 1990, the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association was established and in 2004 Compassionate Care Benefits were enacted, a Canadian federal program providing income for caregivers. It has limitations:

  • Limited to 6 weeks; and
  • patient should have 6 month diagnosis; but
  • the benefit can be used by multiple family members.

A Canadian national program allows a 6 week paid leave by the employer but no protection for the job, different from those who live in the United States who can apply for FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) which is a 12 week program that does not pay for your time away from work, but does protect your job. There is also another program (at least in California) CESLA which allows for use of sick time (percentage) and not vacation time, to be away and care for family members. The CESLA program was unknown to me until I needed to care for my father last year and is not just for end of life care. It appears no matter where you live there is no perfect answer but that there are different levels of support. I think many programs are not known about until the need arises which makes our understanding and knowledge of these programs even more important to help families care for their loved ones.

I think with all the efforts put forth and as we try different options outside the box, we will someday be able to provide such support. I think this supports the palliative care programs as they try to bridge the care of patients from diagnosis to death. In the meantime, Canada has an online resource for that provides “Support and information on palliative and end-of-life care, loss and bereavement for patients, families and health care providers” at Part of the website has an “Ask the Professional” where anyone can ask a question and within 3 days receive an answer. Check it out. You can also follow their efforts on Facebook as well with the continued development Their efforts continue with the expansion of their Model to Guide Hospice Palliative Care to now include pediatrics.

Thanks to Vancouver for hosting the conference and for sharing their hard work.

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