Great sites: Virtual hospice

When you or a family member or close friend is diagnosed with a terminal illness it can be devastating.  It can also be very isolating.  But Canadians have a new resource available to them – one they can use from their own living rooms or offices.

The Canadian Virtual Hospice, a bilingual website, provides high quality health information about death and dying, as well as a forum for Canadians to share their experiences with illness or grief.

“People often don’t know what to expect when they learn that they have been diagnosed with a life-limiting illness. They may feel confused, fearful, and uncertain about what lies ahead. If ever they needed information and support, it’s at this stressful time in their lives,” said Dr. Harvey Chochinov, Canada Research Chair in Palliative Care; Director, Manitoba Palliative Care Research Unit, CancerCare Manitoba; and, co-chair of the Canadian Virtual Hospice. “Unfortunately, in our society, matters of death and dying are very often thought to be unspeakable. I hope that the Canadian Virtual Hospice will help patients and families feel more supported and less alone.”

Sharing the reality
t only can the website be accessed from across Canada, but some individuals may find that the relative distance that an online resource provides gives them the space to share thoughts and feelings that they may feel are unmentionable among their friends and family. 

Targeted at patients, their family and friends, health care professionals, and health care volunteers, the Canadian Virtual Hospice is a means to share credible information and support, eliminating barriers of time and place through the use of the Internet to improve palliative care in Canada.

The Canadian Virtual Hospice provides detailed information about physical symptoms of illness and deals with some of the emotional reactions and spiritual questions often experienced by palliative care patients and their families. The website includes chat rooms, bulletin board discussion areas, and a place for people to email questions to a health care professional. Visitors to the site can use it for information, or choose to interact – as they wish.

When a visitor goes to the site, they are asked to register under one of the audience groups for the site – patients; family and friends; health care providers; or volunteers.  This helps to ensure that the most relevant information is available for that person.

It’s not intended as a substitute for other means of support, but as an additional help during such a difficult time.

We all hope not to have to use such resources, but when a terminal illness strikes close to home, it is good to know that there is a professional and confidential site available out there.