In 1992 the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care announced that annual funding would be available to improve the delivery of community-based palliative care services. The funding was allocated to four initiatives, the fourth being to establish the coordination of regional expertise in pain and symptom management. This initiative is to ensure that all individuals and families experiencing a life-threatening illness have systems in place to access hospice palliative care in their community. The palliative care community in Toronto decided to utilize this funding to develop a service that would provide access to information on hospice palliative care services.
To support this initiative, the Palliative Care Information Centre of Toronto opened in 1997. The Hospice Association of Ontario became the governing agency in 2000 and the name of the agency changed to Hospice Association of Ontario’s Life Line in May of this year.
Life Line provides information on hospice palliative care services and resources in the Toronto area. The goal is to enhance collaboration and coordination amongst health-care providers and to improve the community’s knowledge and ability to access palliative care resources. Requests for information are received from individuals living with a life-threatening illness, families and friends of such individuals, health-care professionals and the public. Information is accessed through our web site, by email or by telephone.
While we provide resource information for services in the Toronto area specifically, inquiries are received from other parts of Ontario, Canada and the United States. Often, such callers are seeking information for individuals living in the Toronto area. If inquiries are about services in other areas of Ontario, we refer the caller to their Regional Pain and Symptom Management Coordinator and/or their local hospice.
In many ways, Life Line provides linkages between people seeking palliative care services and the agencies involved in providing the service. Many callers are seeking clarification regarding what is involved in this specialized care. Much time is spent in discussing the options available and the processes to follow in order to obtain hospice palliative care.
Life Line provides information on:
- Palliative care units
- Pain and symptom management
- Medical outreach teams
- Community hospices
- Bereavement support services
- Community based resources
Often the caller, whether he/she is the person with the life-threatening illness, a family member or a friend, is experiencing sadness, grief and distress. At this time we listen to their concerns and fears and are able to provide support and reassurance. Sometimes people do not know what they are looking for when they call, but do need to talk with someone. We are often able to assist the person to formulate the questions. Some callers are receiving care from palliative care teams in the community or in hospitals and while providing support, we also encourage the person to discuss their concerns with the most appropriate person on their team.
We have recently completed a distribution of our new brochure to several community agencies and organizations including the Toronto District School Board, public libraries and consumer health information centres. Our goal at this time is to increase public awareness of this information centre, thus enhancing access to hospice palliative care services in Toronto.
Feedback from callers who have utilized our service has been very positive, identifying the benefits of the information and the support provided.
Tel: (416) 979-9779. Life Line is governed by the Hospice Association of Ontario, a charitable organization which represents almost 130 hospice palliative care organizations in Ontario. Of those, 90 are independent hospice members supported by 12,000 volunteers providing hospice palliative care services in more than 400 communities across Ontario.