Palliative care in Alberta

Photo by Hush Naidoo

Nine out of 10 people will be diagnosed with a serious illness at some point in their lifetime. Many people don’t know that there is care available to help them live well with their illness. That care is called palliative care, and it is available across Alberta – whether it is needed at the patient’s private residence, in supportive living or long-term care homes, or in the hospital. 

Palliative care is care for the whole person. It supports physical, emotional, spiritual and social well-being. These services are not just for people who are actively dying, but also for people with serious progressive illnesses such as lung, kidney, and heart disease. The family is also given support as they care for their loved one.

For more information, visit Alberta Health Services’ Palliative Care: Is It Right For Me? –

If you have been diagnosed as being palliative, you are eligible to receive palliative care in Alberta. Palliative care can:

  • help improve your quality of life;
  • reduce or relieve your symptoms;
  • help you make important decisions;
  • provide grief support to you, your friends and your family (or chosen family); and
  • support you and your caregivers throughout your illness, from the time of diagnosis.

It can be provided at any time following the diagnosis of a serious illness. Palliative care can be received, along with other treatments, to cure or control a disease. Some studies show that people who receive early palliative care actually live longer than those who do not. 

Palliative care patients in Alberta are eligible to access extra benefits that are not covered by the standard Alberta health insurance plan (Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan or AHCIP). All Albertans who have been living in Alberta for at least three months are covered by AHCIP. It covers the basics like seeing a doctor, going to the hospital, etc. Palliative care patients in Alberta are eligible to access extra benefits that are not covered by this standard Alberta health insurance plan.  Extra benefits include prescription drugs, specific laxatives, and solutions for hydration therapy (provided they are listed in the Alberta Drug Benefit List or Palliative Care Drug Benefit Supplement).

Ask your physician or nurse practitioner for the Palliative Coverage Program application form or search for it on the website. Approved patients will receive an Alberta Blue Cross ID card in the mail. The coverage will continue as long as you are diagnosed as palliative. There are no premiums to pay. 

The Government of Alberta has committed to achieving better palliative care and end-of-life supports for Albertans (according to their 2021 report called “Advancing palliative and end-of-life care in Alberta”). The report captures Albertans’ feedback and recommendations. There were two main messages that came out of the report – palliative care should start as early as possible, close to the initial diagnosis of a life-limiting illness; and a primary goal should be to keep individuals in their homes and their communities, wherever and whenever possible.

Hospice Calgary ( provides local support for patients and their families facing an advanced illness. Services include individual and family counselling, online workshops, and volunteer support. Their services are based on a sliding scale that allows you to pay what you can so that financial costs are not a barrier to access.

They offer free parking and interpretation services are available if needed. Counsellors are available to help you navigate this time in your life and to provide guidance in navigating your illness, and your quality of life using a non-judgmental approach. Volunteer companions are also available (at no charge) to come to your home to spend time with you on activities that are meaningful to you — like playing cards or gardening.

In addition, one of their priorities is helping children in the family understand and adapt to the

illness and the fears of illness and death that the children or teens may be experiencing. They

also offer grief programs for children under 18. For further information, see the virtual tour at

While there is more work to be done to ensure all Albertans experiencing life-limiting illnesses have access to palliative care, there are programs available today for anyone in Alberta who has been diagnosed with a life-limiting illness. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with a serious illness, please ensure that you apply for the Palliative Coverage Program and go to Alberta Health Services – Palliative and End-of-Life Care page (Palliative Care: Service Types ( to see what palliative care services are available in your area.