Skip to main content

Palliative Care: Helping clients to "live in colour"


This year's National Hospice Palliative Care Week theme is “Living in Colour" and Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) is celebrating the important work of hospice palliative teams who help over 6,000 clients annually to live vibrant lives until the end.

“It's a misconception that palliative care is an endpoint," explains Laura Finkler Kemeny, Regional Leader for Palliative Care. “Palliative care is about quality of life."

Laura helps coordinate and standardize palliative teams across VCH and says their philosophy is aligned with “living in colour." 

Conversations make a difference

According to Umilla Stead, Regional Palliative Care Team Leader, communication is a major focus for the Regional Palliative Approach to Care Education team.

“Why wait until someone is close to death to have goals of care conversations?" asks Umilla. “Rather than focusing on end of life, we can support them to live their best life."

Umilla's team provides goals of care education through workshops for staff, tailored education for individual teams or units and guidance to clinicians unsure of how to have a conversation.

Focus areas: Indigenous communities, long-term care and spiritual care

There are a number of palliative care focus areas across VCH including collaborating with First Nations to reduce barriers, integrating palliative care in long-term care facilities and understanding clients' spiritual systems.

“Palliative care isn't the same across cultures," explains Sierra Roberts, Project Manager for Indigenous Palliative Projects and North Shore Palliative Projects. “We've learned it's important to put aside what we think of as palliative care and learn what palliative care means to Nations and community members."

Sierra and her team works with Nations to identify barriers and collaborate on ways to increase access to palliative care. They collaborate to improve trust with communities, develop more appropriate resources, deliver palliative education to Nation health teams and enhance cultural safety knowledge among VCH staff.

In long-term care, palliative clinical resource nurses for long-term care support integration by working with care teams in clinical consultation and offering in-services on end-of-life care topics. They also collaborate with long-term care homes on palliative care programming.

Joan Pham, Palliative Clinical Resource Nurse for Richmond Long-term Care, advocates for a proactive approach that prioritizes goals of care conversations at admission. She believes it's vital to understand what people and their caregivers understand about their illness and its progression to be able to empower and support them.

While health care is frequently associated with physical care, it also includes spiritual care.

According to Philip Murray, a spiritual care practitioner and educator for Vancouver Community, the core of what he does is to get to know what a client's and their family's spiritual system is, how they're expressing their values and beliefs and how they find meaning.

This is an excellent example of how VCH is helping clients live in colour during the end of life. 

SOURCE: Palliative Care: Helping clients to "live in colour" ( )
Page printed:

Copyright © Vancouver Coastal Health. All Rights Reserved.