HSCD Resource Library

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Located at the HSCD office in the lower level of the Mirror Lake Centre, our resource library is a one-stop shop for topics related to palliative/end-of-life care, grief and bereavement, and caregiver concerns. Browse books, DVD’s, and pamphlets for adults and children.

No registration or fees are involved. Simply fill in the library clipboard with the material title, your name and contact info, and the date borrowed. And no late fees – keep the materials as long as you need them, and return them when you are done.

Talking To Your Kids About Your Terminal Illness 
A Guide for Parents

Apr 7, 2015

When a parent is diagnosed with a terminal illness, this new situation will affect the entire family, especially the children. In these cases one of the main concerns is how, when and if this news should be shared with the children. It is normal for parents to want to protect their child, but hiding the terminal illness can oftentimes make matters worse. Withholding information can cause children to feel confused, angry and, many times, guilty.

How to Have the Conversation with Your Children
According to the American Society of Cancer, it is a good thing to tell your children about the terminal illness, but this news should be shared in stages and in a language that a child will be able to understand. Never give a child more information than they will be able to absorb and understand.

If you have a partner, it is best to share this news together; but if you are a single parent then you should tell them alone. A single parent’s greatest concern is to find a reliable person who will take care of their children after they are gone.

But when is the best time to tell your children about your terminal illness? You should talk to your child as soon as the diagnosis is definite. Children know more than parents may think, and they do understand when something is happening in their family, even if you think that you are good at hiding it. Be honest with your children and try to prepare them as much as you can for the future. Keeping your child away from the truth will just make them feel lonely, afraid and guilty.

Preparing Your Child for Loss
In many cases, families have been dealing with the disease for months or even years before it is known that the condition is terminal. In just a few cases, the disease is diagnosed in an advanced stage. This period will help you and your children prepare for the worst. No matter how long you have been dealing with the illness, dealing with it in it’s terminal stage will never be easy.

Children have an abstract understanding of life. Young children especially will have difficulties understanding what death is, and the fact that their parent will be gone forever. Usually after the age of 10, children do understand the meaning of death. Using the right words is very important. Be sure to explain to your child what death really means, and that once you are gone, you will not be back. Don’t give hope to your child. Instead, explain to them that once someone has died, they will be physically gone and that the child will no longer see the loved person. In some cases this conversation might need to be repeated a couple of times, because children will usually have questions. Try to answer these as much as you can. For most children it is very hard to cope throughout the process of losing a parent, especially if they are very young. But in time, the child will accept the reality.

In one way, telling your child the truth can help distract parents from dwelling on the illness. The more they know about the situation, the less fear they will feel. If you are hospitalized, try to get in touch with your children as much as you can. Reassure your children that you love them and that the illness has no effect on your love for them. Let your child visit you while hospitalized only after you, your partner, a friend or a family member prepares them for this situation. It is not easy for children to see their parent in a terminal condition.

Remember, when a parent suffers from an illness, children will notice that something is going on. Being overprotective of them will just make the situation worse, so be honest. It is normal for you as a parent to not know all the answers, as well as to be unsure of what to say and how to explain the illness to your children. Seek help when necessary from a family member, friend or a professional.

Additional Helpful Resources
 Written by Amanda Menard, LPN and last updated Apr 7, 2015
 Last reviewed by Lorraine Anne Liu, RN on Sep 11, 2018

What is a Green Sleeve and What Goes In It?

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Think of it as your “Medical Passport”. The Green sleeve is a plastic pocket that holds important Advance Care Planning documents and other forms that outline a patient’s goals for health care. It is given to patients cared for in AHS who have had discussions, or completed documents, that refer to decision-making about their current or future health care.

Read more

Advance Care Planning - What's Your Excuse?

Advance Care Planning is a way to help you think about, talk about and document wishes for health care in the event that you become incapable of consenting to or refusing treatment or other care.

You may never need your advance care plan - but if you do, you’ll be glad that it’s there and that you have had these conversations, to make sure that your voice is heard when you cannot speak for yourself.

Learn more about ACP with Alberta Health Services

Learn more about ACP with the Alberta Hospice Palliative Care Association

Rituals for Patients and Families

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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. 

Download "Rituals for Patients and Families.pdf"