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End of Life Care: The Experience of Seniors and Informal Caregivers

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 March 2010

Margaret M. Ross
University of Ottawa
Michael J. MacLean
University of Regina
Roy Cain
McMaster University
Scott Sellick
Northwestern Ontario Regional Cancer Care Centre
Rory Fisher
University of Toronto*
E-mail address:


As Canada's elderly population grows, an increasing number of seniors will require care as they face the end of life. Relatively little research attention, however, has been given to end-of-life issues, including those related to treatment and care for persons who are both old and dying. Families and health care providers have little direction and guidance to ensure an optimum quality of life for seniors prior to death and during the period of bereavement. This article presents an abbreviated summary of the literature regarding end-of-life issues and challenges for seniors who face a life threatening illness and are at, or near, the end of their lives. The article is also informed by a series of focus groups with elderly and other informal caregivers regarding the giving of help and getting support while caring for persons who are dying. It concludes with a response to this evidence by making a series of recommendations aimed at ensuring optimal end-of-life care for seniors who are dying and their families.


Au fur et à mesure de l'augmentation de la population des personnes âgées au Canada, un nombre croissant d'aîné(e)s auront besoin de soins pour affronter la fin de leur vie. Par ailleurs, les recherches ont peu porté sur les questions reliées à la fin de la vie, que ce soit celles des traitements ou des soins pour les personnes qui sont à la fois âgées et mourantes. Les familles et les fournisseurs de soins de santé disposent de peu d'orientation et d'encadrement pour assurer une qualité de vie optimale aux personnes âgées avant leur décès et pendant la période de deuil. Cet article présente un bref aperçu de la documentation sur les questions reliées à la fin de la vie et sur le défi que représente une maladie qui menace la vie des personnes âgées qui sont en fin de vie ou qui s'en rapproche. L'article se fonde sur des informations qui proviennent de groupes de réflexion sur les personnes âgées et d'autres aidants naturels et portent sur l'aide et l'appui que l'on donne et reçoit en s'occupant de personnes en fin de vie. L'article se termine par une série de recommandations qui portent sur les meilleurs soins pour les personnes âgées à l'article de la mort et pour leur famille.

Copyright © Canadian Association on Gerontology 2002

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*The authors would like to acknowledge funding received from Health Canada for the summarization of the literature, the organization of focus groups with informal caregivers and the development of A Guide for End-of-Life Care for Seniors. An Ontario Ministry of Health Career Scientist award to Dr. Margaret Ross also facilitated the development of this manuscript. A special note of acknowledgement goes to the focus group participants who shared their experience of caring for seniors who are dying.


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