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Palliative Care Toolbox

Adapted from Ontario Palliative Care Network's online Palliative Care Toolkit.

Palliative care aims to improve a person's quality of life through improved symptom management while addressing psychosocial, emotional and spiritual issues. It is care that is appropriate at all stages of a person's illness. An interdisciplinary care team may include your family physician, non palliative specialist physicians, palliative care physician or nurse practitioner, social workers, dietitians, nurses, spiritual care workers and other health professionals (Cancer Care Ontario, 2013).

This web page is designed with the primary care provider in mind, as a resource in navigating the provision of palliative care in the Missisauga Halton LHIN, with links to best practice tools and local resources. Tools are organized according to the 3-step model of best practice proposed by the Gold Standards Framework (GSF): Identify, Assess, and Plan.


Identifying palliative care needs earlier in the course of disease significantly contributes to positive patient, family and system outcomes. Developed by the Ontario Palliative Care Network, Tools to Support Earlier Identification for Palliative Care, supports providers and system-level leadership in earlier identification of patients who would benefit from palliative care.

Triggers that suggest that patients could benefit from a palliative care approach include:
  • Surprise Question: “Would you be surprised if this person were to die in the next year?”

  • General indicators of decline: deterioration, advanced disease, decreased response to treatment, choice for no further disease modifying treatment

  • Disease specific indicators of decline

Specific details are described in the Early Identification and Prognostic Indicator Guide.pdf  developed by the Mississauga LHIN. This tool has been adapted from the Gold Standards Framework (GSF) Prognostic Indicator Guidance Tool developed by the GSF Centre in the UK. 
Once identified, consider a referral to the Home and Community Care Support Services Mississauga Halton Palliative Care Program by using the following form the Palliative Services and NP Referral Form


Assess patient and family’s current and future needs across all domains of care (i.e. disease management, physical, psychosocial, spiritual, practical, grief/loss, goals of care, end of life care) using validated screening tools, and through an in depth history, physical exam and relevant laboratory/imaging tests.  Type and timeliness of assessment will depend on severity, interference with life, urgency and complexity of issues identified.

1.  Regularly screen for distress and other needs using validated screening tools. It is recommended to complete these tools with every encounter, if possible.

  • Palliative Performance Scales (PPS) - A reliable and valid tool to assess and quickly describe a patients functional performance, can be used to prognosticate, plan for care and communicate status to other providers.
  • Edmonton Symptom Assessment System (ESAS) - A valid and reliable assessment tool to screen for the intensity of nine common symptoms experienced by cancer patients: pain, tiredness, nausea, depression, anxiety, drowsiness, appetite, wellbeing and shortness of breath.  The score guides further focused assessment and your symptom management.   
  • Patient Reported Functional Status (PRFS) - Functional status helps to assess the disease progression and how it may be affecting the daily living abilities of the patient.

2.  Use the results of screening to prompt further discussions, including critical conversations about a person’s illness understanding, their values and beliefs, and their goals and wishes of future care.  Be sure to record goals of care/advance care planning discussions in the medical record.  These conversations are iterative and should be revisited regularly.


Plan and collaborate ongoing care to address needs identified during assessment. This includes prompt management of symptoms and coordination with other care providers.

Symptom Management Guides:

Care Planing:







Still Need Help?

As a primary care provider you will participate as a member of the primary level palliative care team.  The majority of patient care can be manged by the primary level care team with specialist support as needed (See MH LHIN Model of Hospice Palliative Care). If patient/family needs are more complex or support is needed, consider the role of secondary level palliative care specialists (i.e. consultation, collaborative care/shared care, direct care).

Additional Information

Clincial Tools


Grief and Bereavement

Local Services

Secondary Providers