TLC for Hospice House

New paint and roof at 409 Jarvis

Two years ago Hospice Yukon was able to purchase the little house at 409 Jarvis Street that it had rented for many years thanks to a generous contribution from the Yukon Government. Hospice has now offered its services to the Yukon public from this house for 19 years, hopefully with many more to come.

And the good news doesn’t end there. After the house purchase sufficient funds remained to allow for some much-needed renovations to the old house.

People often remark on the warmth they feel when they walk through these doors so we wanted to share with you what has been done to preserve the longevity of the house and maintain its welcoming feel.

Some of these improvements are easily noticed, others less so. Altogether, the upgrades – some big, others small – have made a huge difference.

The roof was really showing its age. We were able to put a new roof on the house as well as on the storage shed at the back of the property.

Two original windows were replaced with new, better insulated ones, and new window coverings. Fresh interior paint and new flooring throughout the house have made it feel much brighter.

New floors, paint and windows in the front room at Hospice.

The counselling room at the back of the house looks fresh and inviting with the new paint, floors and also a new couch.

The bathroom received some upgraded fixtures, and the front entry room was improved with a better storage system for our office supplies, and better lighting.

We were also able to put new exterior paint on the house, shed and fence, which matches the colours of the main house and looks great.

Bamboo panels were installed along the side fence in the front yard, creating more privacy for people who come to use and enjoy the Peaceful Place.

We are thrilled that ATCO Electric Yukon chose Hospice Yukon as its staff fundraising beneficiary this year. As part of this program they donated many hours of staff time to strip and paint our shed. The pictures show the incredible before/after result. Thank you ATCO!

Also, Hospice financed the removal of our old furnace system and installation of a new, efficient propane furnace. This has led to substantial savings on our energy bills during the winter months.

Plans for more improvements in the future are in the works. Some of these include installing new lights in the basement, as well as upgrades to the electrical panel.

Altogether, a great deal of change has taken place at Hospice over the last two years. Please stop by to take it all in!

Hospice Board Sees Change in 2017

Hospice Yukon has been blessed with being served by many skilled and dedicated board members since its inception more than 27 years ago.

2017 was a year of change for our Board of Directors. We said a huge thank you and fond farewell to long-time volunteer and board member, Lori Eastmure, and a warm welcome to new board member, Patricia McGarr. Here you can learn a bit more about Lori and Patricia and their roles at Hospice.

Lori was involved with Hospice since the early 1990s. In her early years of involvement she co-facilitated adult grief groups. For the past 11 years she served as a dedicated board member, and many of those were as co-chair of the board. She stepped down in May of this year. Several years ago Hospice awarded Lori with an honorary lifetime membership in recognition of her dedication and involvement. Her dedication and passion for Hospice services, and her warm, gentle nature will be missed at Hospice.

Here are a few words Lori had to share upon leaving Hospice this spring:

Losing my husband as a young wife was very difficult. I had no experience of loss this close. The advice back then was essentially about ‘getting on’ with life. I attended a grief group lead by Jackie McLaren and Sue Grabner which was life-changing. The following year Hospice Yukon was formed. I wasn’t ready to become a volunteer the first year but the second year I took the volunteer training and was on my way to healing in a very good way. One of these ways was in turning my attention to supporting others. It was transformative.

I started as a volunteer grief group ‘shadow’ leader. From there I co-led grief groups for many years. I really enjoyed meeting so many people in such a deep and meaningful way.

I joined the Board in 2006. Later, I became co-chair and held that position for many years. I think I had this long term commitment because of the remarkable people I met through this organization – the staff, the volunteers and our clients.  I have loved the challenges, the friendships and the accomplishments – especially the dream I and others have had for so many years – to secure a permanent home for our organization, which we accomplished in 2015.

I don’t know where I’d be today without Hospice. Thank you all for enriching my life. “

Thank you, Lori, for all you have shared with Hospice over the years.

And now, we welcome Patricia McGarr to our Board of Directors. Patricia has been a Registered Nurse for many years, and has been involved in various capacities with Hospice Yukon since its inception. Here’s she shares about herself and her involvement with Hospice over the years:

Patricia McGarr and her husband Greg.

I came to the Yukon 32 years ago from Scotland and it has been my home ever since – well, apart from a couple of years in Victoria (where I worked with Hospice Victoria); a short stint in Edmonton (being a new Mum and supporting husband in his Master’s degree); and a couple of years in Ottawa (working with the Canadian Nurses Association). I have a husband of 31 years (length of time married that is – not his age) and have two wonderful children in their twenties. We are lucky to have our son here with us in the Yukon for now, while my daughter is exploring Canada and the a camper van.

I am a registered nurse and specialized in Oncology in Scotland and England. I was the first coordinator of the Yukon Home Care program, which was when I got involved in the early days of Hospice Yukon. It was invigorating to be part of a very active planning committee when the association was formed, meeting weekly to plan volunteer programming in palliative and bereavement support. In the late ’80s and early ’90s I was involved in a variety of roles with Hospice Yukon including: member of the Personnel Committee; member of the Board of Directors; joint facilitator of adult bereavement group; and Program Co-ordinator from 1990-1993, taking over from Barb, our first Co-ordinator. (Thankfully, Barb came back on the scene).  It was always moving and meaningful to sing at the Lights of Life opening ceremonies with the Persephone Singers. Yikes! Prior to that, I think I even sang a solo at one of the earlier opening ceremonies in Horwoods Mall!

I took on the position of Executive Director of the Yukon Registered Nurses Association in 1996, where I worked for 17 years. During that time I had a lot of experience in working with local and national Boards of different styles and feel well prepared to contribute to the board of Hospice Yukon. It has long been my intention to be part of Hospice Yukon again in some capacity. 

I look forward to this opportunity to serve again on the Hospice Yukon Board of Directors and help advance the philosophy, principles and values of our holistic and essential program.

The Hospice Yukon Board of Directors currently consists of 5 dedicated and dynamic members (left to right): Christine Gray, Dr. Sally MacDonald, Patricia McGarr, Nansi Cunningham, and Debra Fendrick.

Thank you all for the important work you do!


Workshop teaches Compassionate Workplace Leadership

On November 29th Hospice Yukon will be offering a workshop geared towards helping Managers and other workplace leaders establish compassion as a guiding principle in the workplace and create policies that will support employees when their lives are affected by grief and loss. This workshop is offered in partnership with Yukon College and the Northern Institute of Social Justice.

Hospice created this workshop in order to meet a need we could see in the community. We often receive calls from Yukon workplaces when an employee has died or has suffered a significant loss, and co-workers wonder how to provide appropriate support during these challenging times.

This workshop helps managers and supervisors develop practical tools and policies that will help them support grieving employees and provide leadership during times of crisis. They will also learn to anticipate the challenges of both supporting their employees and maintaining workplace productivity during high stress periods at work.

The workshop also features guest speakers who share passionately about how they found unique ways to support grieving employees, and provided effective leadership when significant losses affected their workplaces.

Kelvin Leary, former Deputy Minister of ECO and Environment, has been a great supporter of this workshop since its first offering five years ago. He explains the rationale behind it:

“Planning for grief and loss is a missing piece in our leadership toolbox. We regularly practice fire drills and implement emergency plans that are rarely needed, yet somehow we fail to plan for tremendously impactful events like grief and loss that will inevitably occur in the workplace.”

Loss is indeed an inevitable part of life; it eventually affects all of us. And when it does, we experience the grief not only emotionally, but also physically, mentally, socially and spiritually. Because grief is so all-encompassing, we know that it’s effects really cannot be separated from the workplace.

Some common symptoms of grief that can be seen in the workplace include: having difficulty concentrating, lack of motivation, confusion, memory lapses, anxiety, social withdrawal, fatigue, and more frequent illness, to name a few.

In one study 75% of employees who suffered a major loss say that their reduced ability to concentrate lasted well beyond their bereavement leave. In other words they are bringing their grief to work with them. A grieving employee is more likely to make poor decisions and be less productive, a fact proven by different studies, as well as the experiences of grieving individuals at work.

So, what to do? How can employers help?

The key in helping employees resume productivity at work lies in creating a compassionate workplace. The research clearly bears the proof of why this is worth investing in: organizations who put their people first do better on all indicators of success. Employees who are part of a compassionate workplace feel more loyal to their organization and are more motivated in their work.

If you would like to find out more information about our upcoming workshop, Supporting Your Staff Through Loss and Grief, please contact us at, or phone 667-7429. To download the poster click here.

To register phone Yukon College: 668-8710 (CRN 10401)


Assisted Dying Legislation raises Palliative Care Issues

The legislation on medically assisted dying was passed in Canada over a year ago, in June 2016. We wrote this piece in an effort to clarify the difference and relationship between MAiD and palliative care, as well as highlight some of the important issues around the accessibility high quality palliative care to all Canadians. 

As most Canadians now know, in June of 2016 Bill C-14 was passed by the Senate, making medical assistance in dying (MAiD) a legal option at end of life for those who meet the criteria.

This change has prompted conversations among individuals and their families, medical and support staff, and in care facilities across the country. As a society, we are grappling with fundamental questions regarding how and when we die, and how we support each other at the end of life.

The Hospice Yukon Society has been engaged with this discussion as well. We see it as a fitting time to reiterate our commitment to support all Yukoners in any choice they make at the end of their lives, and to examine and clarify the relationship between MAID and palliative care.

Discussions in health care facilities, prompted by the MAID legislation, now focus on how they will support eligible patients who choose medical assistance to end their life. Doctors and nurse practitioners have also had to determine their comfort level with it: some will provide MAID to eligible patients, while those who feel they cannot must help patients find someone who will.

At Hospice Yukon, one of the points of confusion we have seen surrounding MAID is whether or not it falls under the umbrella of palliative care. The question is a reasonable one. Palliative care is specialized health care for patients and families living with a life-limiting illness, and MAID is an option for eligible patients at end-of-life. Both relate to how we live out our last days, but we see an important difference in their underlying philosophies. Because of this difference most organizations involved in palliative care believe that assisted dying is a medical procedure that falls outside the scope of palliative care.

Part of the World Health Organization’s definition of palliative care states that it “neither hastens nor postpones death” and that the philosophy of care is one that “affirms life and regards dying as a normal process.” Palliative care is often used with standard medical care, and strives for pain and symptom management, as well as psychological, emotional and spiritual support for the patient and their family. Using a team approach, palliative care helps patients achieve the best possible quality of life and live as actively as possible until their natural time of death. It can take place in any care setting: hospital, hospice, long-term care facility, or the patient’s home.

One of the greatest misperceptions we see about palliative care is that it is only provided at the end of a life-limiting illness when the patient’s death is imminent. In fact, studies show that palliative care can be most effective when implemented early in the course of the illness and has many benefits when used this way. These include an improved quality of life for the patient and their family, less pain and depression, reduced strain on health care resources, and, commonly, an increase in longevity and survival rates.

Accessing palliative care generally takes place through referral from the patient’s doctor, or at the patient’s request. Here in the Yukon there is a palliative care resource team that consists of a palliative care doctor, registered nurse, social worker, and community liaison coordinator. Palliative care can be delivered to a patient in any care setting. There are currently no designated palliative care beds at any hospitals or long-term care facilities in Yukon, however, plans are in place for a full palliative care unit to be built as part of the new Whistle Bend continuing care facility in Whitehorse.

The availability of palliative care in Canada is highly variable, and not all of those who could benefit from it are receiving it. Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott acknowledges that there is evidence that only 15 to 30 per cent of Canadians have access to high quality palliative care when they need it, regardless of where they live in Canada. This means that there are people who may not be able to access palliative care, but now have the option of seeking a medically assisted death.

It is important to acknowledge that there is a small percentage of people will choose, despite excellent access to palliative care, to end their life through the MAID process. For these people it is important to have the freedom to be in control of the end of their life.

However, in the face of the new MAID legislation our challenge as a society will be to ensure that vulnerable people are not choosing a medically assisted death because of a sense of being a burden, loss of dignity, poor pain management, or because they can’t access the quality of care they need. We believe every Canadian should have access to palliative care when they need it and not feel compelled to choose MAID because of an absence of high-quality end-of-life care.

Also, while a heightened focus on MAID is justified in these early days, it is important to maintain a focus on the greater context of end-of-life care. Only a small fraction of people with life-limiting illnesses will be interested in MAiD; the vast majority of people facing end-of-life would benefit from palliative care that is accessible across all care settings.

Hospice Yukon Society will continue to engage with the many questions raised by the MAID legislation. We stand behind the philosophy of palliative care, and believe that people have the right to be informed about, and have access to all end-of-life care options. Yukoners can rest assured of Hospice Yukon’s continued support in any end-of-life choice they make.

Hospice remembers Andrew (Jim) Boyles

Hospice Yukon was saddened to learn of the death of Andrew Wilhelm-Boyles on August 1st 2017, at the Vancouver Hospice.

Andrew (known to us at that time as Jim Boyles) was instrumental in forming the Hospice Yukon Society in 1988. After much work with other volunteers to establish the organization, he then became Hospice Yukon’s first president on the first Board of Directors. He served in that position during Hospice Yukon’s early years, and his leadership and dedication to the Hospice philosophy helped to build the strong program that exists today.

Andrew is also remembered for his love of music and his contribution to the musical and arts community. Music played a large part in his life and he generously shared his passion with the people of the Yukon and other communities he called home.

Program Manager, Barb Evans-Ehricht shared these words about Andrew:

“He had his finger in many pies here in the North and used his leadership skills and free time to benefit many organizations. Andrew was a skillful President of our Society.  I am grateful for his role in my getting a start in hospice palliative care; he helped spark the passion I feel for people to have a meaningful last stage of living, and for those left behind to receive the healing support they desire.”

Our Board, our Staff, our Volunteers and our community are grateful for the pivotal role Andrew played in developing Hospice Yukon.

To read more about Andrew’s life, please click the link below:

Completion of the Peaceful Place

IMG_1090The Peaceful Place in the front yard of Hospice House that has been taking shape over the last two years is now complete.

The final components recently put into place include a bronze plaque that welcomes visitors and describes the intent of the space, and bamboo fencing that gives some privacy and a visual separation from the parking lot next door.

These two features were the final additions to the space in the front yard at Hospice that contains a wood-covered stone altar, beautiful hand-carved marble swan, circular paving-stone patio, and two wooden benches nestled under the trees.

The space is immediately inviting. The plaque reads: “Welcome… This is a place for quiet reflection and healing. It is here for all of us, especially during times of loss. May you find peace and solace.”

Staff, volunteers and clients have been exploring different ways to use the space. Staff and volunteers have gathered there to remember a client who has died. Sometimes a client has rung the bell that hangs above the stone swan in memory of a loved one. Recently, several Healing Touch volunteers gathered to honour the life of a shared client who died.

Our hope is that the Peaceful Place will be thought of as a place to gather, to reflect, and to heal. It is open to the general public and is a beautiful place to contemplate and honour our losses.

The Peaceful Place was conceived of and built by local artist and Hospice volunteer Josh Lesage. While travelling in India he was inspired at the simple reflection of spirituality present all around in shrines, prayer flags, prayer wheels, statues, etc.  His aim was to design and create a public space in Whitehorse that invites ritual and contemplation into our everyday lives.  Hospice Yukon is pleased to host The Peaceful Place as a kind of ‘contemporary shrine’ that is accessible to all.