Serious illness conversations benefit patients with life-limiting illness

News / General
By Meaghan Quinn

Town Hall offers opportunity to learn how to approach conversations

Beginning a conversation with patients diagnosed with a progressive life-limiting illness is challenging, distressing and unsettling for the patient, their family, caregivers and health care providers.  However, having these conversations has been shown to have tremendous benefits for patients and results in improved quality of life.

“We know that when individuals have conversations about their values, goals and wishes, they are more likely to receive the care they want and report better quality of life,” says Dr. Ingrid Harle, a Palliative Medicine physician with Kingston Health Sciences Centre and assistant professor with Queen’s University.  “Therefore, engaging in conversations about serious illness are beneficial if they occur early and continue throughout a patient’s illness journey”

Helping patients, caregivers and care providers feel equipped and empowered to have these conversations has been a focus of work for the Palliative Medicine program. In partnership with Queen’s University, Hospice Kingston and Compassionate Kingston, a unique Town Hall is being offered to the community on the topic of Serious Illness Conversations. Led by two experts from Harvard Medical School, this Town Hall will address the challenges around these conversations as well provide tools and techniques on how to approach a serious illness conversation.

“Life is a spectrum of events and yet we tend to steer away from discussing the ones that are not happy and protect ourselves by pretending they don’t exist. However, we would do much better of protecting ourselves by learning how to identify when difficult conversations are important and necessary and, by their very nature, can improve a situation,” says Kerry Stewart, a Patient Experience Advisor with KHSC. “As patients and care providers we need our care to be understood and have it be a better journey.”

Being prepared to have these conversations is a timely topic for people who work, learn and live in southeastern Ontario. The communities within this area are changing with an aging population that has increasingly complex medical needs. For care providers, effective communication will help ensure that there is a care plan in place that is able to meet patient needs today and in the future.

“Our hope is for attendees to learn that engaging in conversations about serious illnesses is necessary to ensure those within your circle of care know what is important to you to plan your medical care appropriately,” says Dr. Harle. “As well, having these conversations gives guidance to your substitute decision maker and health care team to provide care that you would want if and when you cannot speak for yourself.”

This Town Hall is open to all. Event details:

May 14, 5:00-6:00pm
The Harbour Restaurant
Portsmouth Olympic Harbour Site
53 Young Street
Kingston, ON K7M 6G4

Free parking and wheelchair accessible.

Additional details can be found at