Featured Articles

Decisions

Decisions

 
Patients and families are confronted with decisions daily. This section provides a guide to decision making.

Financial Assistance

Financial Assistance

 
Learn about benefit programs available to Canadians.

Visiting

Visiting

 
Practical advice to make the most of every visit.

Topics

    What Is Palliative Care?

    By: CVH Team Palliative care is still widely misunderstood by many Canadians. Here are 10 common myths we often encounter. Help dispel these myths by sharing the facts with family members and friends, colleagues, patients and client. 1.   Myth:... read more...

    By: CVH Team What is palliative care ? Palliative care is a type of health care for patients and families facing life-threatening illness. Palliative care helps patients to achieve the best possible quality of life right up until the end of... read more...

    Emotional Health

    By: Andrea Warnick RN, MA Dying and death are natural processes in the circle of life. Yet, our experiences of these processes have changed dramatically over the last century. Most responsible for this change is the advancement of modern medicine. read more...

    By: Fred Nelson MSW, RSW “The moment we heard about Dad’s cancer diagnosis, everything changed in our family. My sister has always been kind of withdrawn. Well, she started to take over. I felt like my own world had ground to a halt; I couldn’t... read more...

    By: Glen R. Horst MDiv, DMin, BA Mindfulness is a practice that helps you connect with what you are experiencing in the present. Research has shown that mindfulness can positively affect your sense of well-being, even in the midst of illness. read more...

    By: Glen R. Horst MDiv, DMin, BA Poignant and powerful memories often come unbidden at the end of life. As you try to come to terms with the fact that your life is ending, you naturally begin to recall where you have been, what you have done,... read more...

    Sources of stress The physical problems that may accompany a life-threatening illness are the most obvious sources of stress. However, the stress related to the illness may often be increased by practical and emotional problems and by family... read more...

    By:   Catherine Traer-Martinez RMT, MEd, RCC     What is anxiety ? Anxiety is nervous tension. It’s an emotional and physical state that includes some combination of fear, uneasiness and worry. Thinking about progressive changes in your health... read more...

    By:   Glen R. Horst MDiv, DMin, BA What is hope? For people who are healthy, hope is linked to the future and to the plans and wishes you have for the future. A serious illness puts question marks over how much future you will have and what it... read more...

    By: Fred Nelson MSW, RSW You and your family are likely to experience all kinds of thoughts and feelings over the course of your illness. None of the feelings described below will capture exactly what you are feeling. Everyone’s experience will... read more...

    By:   Glen R. Horst MDiv, DMin, BA Grieving the death of a family member or close friend is hard, exhausting work. This work may be especially difficult during holiday seasons, and other days that are filled with family and community traditions,... read more...

    By: Fred Nelson MSW, RSW What is grief? Grief is a multi-faceted human response to loss. Grief work emphasizes that grief is a process that we engage in as active participants. Grief demands attention, refusing to go away automatically with... read more...

    Spiritual Health

    By: Glen R. Horst MDiv, DMin, BA If a life-threatening illness has intruded into your life, you are probably experiencing tremendous upheaval. Most of us spend much of our lives trying to avoid thinking too much about the end of life. Now, you... read more...

    By:   Glen R. Horst MDiv, DMin, BA How a spiritual companion can help   A spiritual companion is someone who listens to you and is with you as you face the challenges of your illness. This person can help you to identify resources you already... read more...

    By:   Glen R. Horst MDiv, DMin, BA For most adults, good health and the ability to make personal choices are basic to meaningful living. You find meaning in working and earning a living, in your choices about recreation and leisure, and in controlling... read more...

    By:   Glen R. Horst MDiv, DMin, BA Rituals can help you and your family get through difficult times. Gathering together as a family to take part in a specific activity is one way to bring people together meaningfully. Your family may have a favorite... read more...

    By :   Glen R. Horst MDiv, DMin, BA The death of a family member may be one of the most significant experiences of your life. Witnessing the end of someone’s life is extraordinary and possibly life-changing, no matter what the relationship has... read more...

    By:   Glen R. Horst MDiv, DMin, BA If you have a serious illness, you likely have had to tell the story of your illness many times – to doctors, nurses, and other health care providers; to your employer and your work associates; to your family,... read more...

    Symptoms & Health Concerns

    By:   Mike Harlos MD, CCFP, FCFP Sorting out health concerns When health care providers are faced with a health concern, they try to sort out what could be causing the problem. Treatment will vary from person to person, depending on the cause... read more...

    By: Cornelius Woelk MD, CCFP, FCFP , Mike Harlos MD, CCFP, FCFP and Pat Murphy BEd, MEd Dave's story Dave had a family history of heart disease. He had his first heart attack when he was 51. When he was 55 he had coronary bypass surgery. A year... read more...

    By: Mike Harlos MD, CCFP, FCFP What is confusion? Confusion occurs when a person’s brain is not functioning properly. People experiencing confusion have problems remembering, paying attention, speaking, thinking, reasoning, and understanding... read more...

    By: Mike Harlos MD, CCFP, FCFP   What is constipation ? Constipation is a condition where stool is slow to move through the large intestine and bowel movements occur less frequently than they normally do. The slower the movement, the more fluid... read more...

    By: Mike Harlos MD, CCFP, FCFP What is dehydration ? Dehydration is a condition that results from the excessive loss of water from the body. Diarrhea and vomiting are two of the most common causes of dehydration. Some medications can also reduce... read more...

    By: Mike Harlos MD, CCFP, FCFP What is depression ? Depression is a medical condition that affects how a person thinks, feels, and acts. Doctors now know that depression has a biological or chemical basis, so people cannot “shake off” depression... read more...

    By:   Mike Harlos MD, CCFP, FCFP What is fatigue ? Fatigue is a feeling of extreme tiredness or a complete lack of energy. Everyone has experienced fatigue at one time or another. When we don’t get enough rest or sleep, eat poorly, or do too... read more...

    By:   Mike Harlos MD, CCFP, FCFP What is anorexia (lack of appetite)? Lack of appetite is the feeling that you are not hungry. Most people experience a lack of appetite from time to time. For example, people recovering from the flu often do not... read more...

    By: Sarah Brown BSc, RN, MN, CNS   What is a malignant wound? A malignant wound is an open cancerous lesion of the skin, which may be draining. It may look like a cavity or open area on the surface of the skin. It may also appear as skin bumps... read more...

    By: Mike Harlos MD, CCFP, FCFP What is nausea and vomiting? Nausea is a sick or uncomfortable feeling in the stomach which is often described as an urge to vomit. Some people also describe nausea as an uncomfortable feeling at the back of the... read more...

    By:   Mike Harlos MD, CCFP, FCFP What is pain ? Pain is the unpleasant experience you have when your body is hurt. Many different problems can cause pain, such as injuries, arthritis, or more serious diseases such as cancer. Everyone experiences... read more...

    By: Anne Katz PhD, RN, FAAN Sexuality is much more than having sex even though many people think only about sexual intercourse when they hear the word. Sexuality is sometimes equated with intimacy, but in reality, sexuality is just one way that... read more...

    By:   Mike Harlos MD, CCFP, FCFP What is shortness of breath? The medical term for shortness of breath is dyspnea . It is defined as an uncomfortable awareness of breathing. People who are experiencing shortness of breath feel that they can’t... read more...

    By: Brenda Hearson RN, MN, CHPCN(C), CNS We all need sleep to maintain our ability to function physically and mentally, as well as to maintain our sense of well-being and quality of life . Yet, sleep disturbance is a symptom that is commonly... read more...

    By: Romayne Gallagher MD, CCFP Swallowing problems in degenerative brain diseases People who have degenerative brain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, other dementias, Parkinson’s disease and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease),... read more...

    Providing Care

    Adequate sleep is essential to staying healthy and functioning well. You need sleep to do your daily work safely, to cope with emotional stress, and to carry on giving care. Yet if you are caring for someone at home or sitting with someone round... read more...

    By: CVH Team Whether you are caring for someone full-time or even just occasionally helping out, caregiving can be mentally, physically and emotionally demanding. Although taking time for yourself is often easier said than done, pushing yourself... read more...

    By:   Simone Stenekes RN, MN, CHPCN(C), CNS and Lisa Streeter Medications are commonly used to help manage pain or other symptoms that are troubling.   It is important to know about the medications that you are prescribed: how much to take, when... read more...

    By: CVH Team A person living with an advancing illness will not eat as much as they once did. While it is important not to become too focused on increasing the amount of food a person eats, there are a number of strategies that can be used to... read more...

    By: CVH Team Many people with advanced illness experience significant mouth problems, which can affect their quality of life . Common problems include dry mouth, lips, and throat; open sores; yeast infections; or discomfort with dentures and... read more...

    By:   CVH Team Caring for hair Illness tends to make people perspire, making their hair damp and sometimes tangled.  Brushing someone’s hair regularly can be a thoughtful gesture.  Hair can be washed in the shower or tub, at the kitchen table with... read more...

    By: CVH Team Most people find bathing or showering refreshing. However, tub baths and even showers may become more difficult as illness progresses. Here are some ideas for making bathing comfortable and safe.   General Tips Buy or rent equipment... read more...

    By: CVH Team For some people, the prospect of either giving or receiving assistance with toileting can be a source of embarrassment. A matter-of-fact approach is best. If the person is able to get to the bathroom, consider whether the environment... read more...

    By: CVH Team Anyone who remains lying or sitting in one position for more than a couple of hours is at risk for skin breakdown. This can lead to pressure sores, which are also known as pressure ulcers or bedsores. These skin problems can be... read more...

    Communication

    By: Brenda Hearson RN, MN, CHPCN(C), CNS and Cornelius Woelk MD, CCFP, FCFP Good communication is an important part of good health care. Some people find it hard to talk to their doctor or health care team, especially about serious illness or... read more...

    By:   CVH Team Visits from friends can be uplifting, both for the person who is ill and their families. However, as the person becomes weaker, or as caregiving becomes more demanding, families may not have enough energy to meet with visitors. read more...

    By:   Susan McClement RN, PhD and Simone Stenekes RN, MN, CHPCN(C), CNS Explaining the serious illness of a family member or friend to a child or youth can seem overwhelming. Adults who are themselves feeling emotions related to a family member’s... read more...

    By: Andrea Warnick RN, MA Parents want to protect their children from emotional pain and suffering. This natural parental urge can be difficult to balance with the desire to be honest and upfront about harsh realities, such as talking about... read more...

    By:   CVH Team You may be nervous about talking to someone who is not expected to live much longer. The big question is often whether to be up front and talk about the illness or try to ignore it. The best advice is to be yourself. Be open to... read more...

    By: Glen R. Horst MDiv, DMin, BA Knowing what to say to someone who is dying and when to say it can be difficult. The following tips may be useful at any point during a serious illness, but especially when the person is not expected to live... read more...

    When someone you know dies, you are affected in one way or another. The depth of your relationship with the person who has died or their family or friends affects how you might offer support. By offering condolences, or expressions of comfort... read more...

    Decisions

    By: CVH Team The Canadian Virtual Hospice (CVH) provides information and support to manage illness through a palliative approach to care. This website has many valuable articles and videos about serious illness as well as grief and loss. Please... read more...

    By: Mike Harlos MD, CCFP, FCFP Making decisions about health care can seem overwhelming at times. The issues are often complex and involve subjects that we’re not used to thinking about in our day-to-day lives. The intensity of decision making... read more...

    By: CVH Team Health care directives A health care directive is a document that outline treatment decisions that a patient has asked to be followed if they become unable to communicate or make decisions for themselves. This document is sometimes... read more...

    Each of us is encouraged to think about, talk about and tell people our wishes for the type of health care we want to receive at some point in the future. This process is called advance care planning . If you are living with a serious health... read more...

    By: Pat Murphy BEd, MEd and George Webster BA, MA, MDiv, DMin   My mother died nine months ago after my brother and I decided to stop all the medical interventions that were prolonging her life.   My mom had asked us to make health care decisions... read more...

    By: Simone Stenekes RN, MN, CHPCN(C), CNS and Lisa Streeter     Many Canadians say they would like to die at home, probably because home feels comfortable and familiar. Yet, most of us aren’t aware of what supporting a death at home might involve. read more...

    By: Romayne Gallagher MD, CCFP Many people have seen someone in pain and suffering. Physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia offer an immediate end to suffering, which makes them seem attractive options when life is coming to an end. From a... read more...

    By: Romayne Gallagher MD, CCFP Physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia seem like reasonable options for people who are suffering because of an incurable condition and cannot get relief.   And so they attract intense interest and discussion. read more...

    By: Romayne Gallagher MD, CCFP Three terms that may arise in end-of-life care discussions are ‘withholding treatment’, ‘withdrawing treatment’ and ‘palliative sedation’. They are often misunderstood and sometimes confused with physician-assisted... read more...

    By:   CVH Team During the first few days after a death, grieving family members or friends have many demands placed on them in preparation for a funeral. What kind of funeral should it be? Should the person be buried or cremated? What do you... read more...

    By: Glen R. Horst MDiv, DMin, BA For cultural, traditional or personal reasons, you may wish to have a viewing, wake or funeral in your home. The following tasks are all part of a home funeral. You can involve a funeral home for assistance or... read more...

    By: CVH Team What is a will? A will is a legal, written document that sets out how you want your property and possessions to be distributed after your death. A will also names an executor – the person who will look after your estate after your... read more...

    Financial Assistance

    By: CVH Team Disability benefits Canada Pension Plan The Canada Pension Plan (CPP) is best known as a retirement pension, but it also provides disability benefits to CPP contributors and their families.   If you have children and are receiving... read more...

    By: CVH Team Caregiver benefits Caregiver benefits through Canada Employment Insurance Since 2004, the Government of Canada has offered a Compassionate Care Benefit to Canadians who need time off from work to care for a seriously ill family... read more...

    Final Days

    By Andrea Warnick RN, MA When a family member or friend is dying, many parents struggle with how much of the dying process they should allow their children to witness. It is not uncommon for a dying adult, who lives with their children or grandchildren,... read more...

    By: Mike Harlos MD, CCFP, FCFP Overview In the final phase of progressive life-limiting illness, patients and families face changes, challenges and choices that are unfamiliar and can seem overwhelming. This article offers information about... read more...

    By: CVH Team When an expected death occurs after a long illness, it can seem unbelievable. The whole situation may feel unreal, and difficult to grasp what has actually happened. Even if you think you have prepared yourself – at least intellectually... read more...

    By: Glen R. Horst MDiv, DMin, BA Family members or close friends may choose to be involved in washing and dressing the body after death has occurred. Caring for a body is not easy and can stir up strong emotions. See Moments After a Death . read more...