Palliative Care

Pediatric Palliative Care

Pediatric palliative care is an active approach to care that focuses on improving the quality of living for children and their families who live with and die from life-limiting or life-threatening conditions. It is an approach to care that is best delivered concurrently with disease-directed treatment, with the aim of addressing symptoms that can negatively impact quality of living during illness and treatment.

Our aim is to provide an additional layer of support to seriously ill children, their families, and the communities they live in. Pediatric palliative care is best delivered by a team of care providers that ensures the child and family are supported throughout the ill child’s living and dying. Bereavement care is essential to families that experience the loss of a child and is an important part of pediatric palliative care.

The principles of pediatric and adult palliative care are both rooted in the provision of high-quality holistic care in the face of life-limiting conditions. Children experience a variety of illnesses and conditions that are not seen in adults. Certain illnesses that are also seen in adults can display differently in children because of their unique anatomy and physiology. Children are also continuously growing and developing in the face of illness. The developmental range that we may see in pediatric palliative care can be anywhere from unborn babies with concerning antenatal diagnoses/abnormalities to infants, children and youth living with serious illness/medical complexities that will shorten their lives.

Pediatric Palliative Care in Nova Scotia

IWK Pediatric Advanced Care Team (PACT) is a consultative service dedicated to optimizing the well-being of infants, children, youth and expectant parents in the Maritimes who are facing life-limiting or life-threatening conditions. PACT focuses on the prevention and relief of symptoms. The team provides an additional layer of family-centred supports throughout the illness experience, whether on to a cure or into bereavement.

PACT works alongside primary health care teams and community providers to:

  • Enhance quality of life
  • Ensure continuity of care
  • Support children and their families to make and advocate for care decisions that best reflect their unique values and preferences

As the Division of Palliative Medicine at IWK, PACT is also involved in research, education, policy and advocacy. Our goal is to provide the highest quality, evidence-based pediatric advanced care, complex care and palliative care to children in the Maritimes and their families. 

Helpful Resources


Children & Grief

These are helpful links and resources for children, families and care providers to support children through grief and loss:

For Health Care Professionals

Respite Care

In Nova Scotia, there are several organizations that support respite for children and youth living with medical complexities and serious illness. The ability to access respite, and the amount and type of respite services, may be limited by the criteria and resources of each organization.

Nova Scotia’s provincial Home Care has options for respite provided in the home and at the Children’s Centre at the Evergreen Home for Special Care in Kentville. Families can self-refer to continuing care. To learn more:

Nova Scotia's Department of Community Services (DCS) has a variety of supports for people living with disabilities, including children and youth:

  • Help accessing respite in a facility such as:
    • Evergreen Home for Special Care in Kentville
    • Taigh Gradhach House in Sydney

Finding Respite Providers

If you have respite funding from private insurance or another funding source, or if you would like to pay for respite: