What We Do

The Hospice Palliative Care Society of Cape Breton County is a vital community healthcare partner. Your donations help patients live well.

To support and promote compassionate care for individuals and their loved ones who need palliative and end-of-life care.

An Cala Palliative Care Unit

The An Cala Palliative Care Unit opened in 2008. It is a nine-bed acute care unit located on the fourth floor of the Cape Breton Regional Hospital. An Cala is Gaelic for safe harbour — and that is what is found here — a safe haven and a place of comfort. Through our donors, the Society provides volunteer support, music therapy, baking, flowers, human touches, special events, Internet access, televisions, a kitchen and family room, along with shower and laundry facilities for families who are staying with their palliative care patient.


One family member says she would forget she was in a hospital because An Cala became home to her while she stayed with her husband during his final weeks.


Our donors help us provide added comforts to patients and their families. By providing the comforts of home such as baked goods, books and toiletries, we help families focus on spending quality time with their loved ones.

Palliative Care in Community

When patients are receiving palliative care at home, they may require additional equipment to treat or support their circumstances and maintain a quality of life that is comfortable for them or eases the challenges for their families.


Thanks to our community donors, the Society provides home healthcare equipment free of charge when it is deemed necessary by the palliative care physician or nurse. (When equipment is not available through the Red Cross). Again, thanks to our donors, we support a broad-based financial assistance fund that is administered through the palliative care social worker and, in exceptional circumstances, provides 24-hour nursing care at home when requested by a physician.

Volunteer Program

Through our donors, our Society provides the resources necessary to train palliative care volunteers who then give their time to patients currently in hospital and in long-term care facilities throughout Sydney, North Sydney and Glace Bay. Our trained volunteers provide companionship and offer short respite for families or caregivers.


The service has approximately 80 volunteers. Families interested in using the services of the volunteer program can make a request through any member of the Palliative Care Team.  The selection of a volunteer is conducted by considering interests and personalities through the application and interview process. When a volunteer is assigned, they generally continue with the same person as long as the patient or family feels it is needed.


For more information, visit our volunteer page or contact the Volunteer Co-ordinator at (902) 567-8160.

Financial Assistance

It’s an unfortunate reality, but medical costs can cause added stress when you or a loved one are faced with an illness. Through your donations, our Society provides financial assistance to alleviate some of the financial burdens that come with caring for a loved one at home.


The cost of medications at home can be quite expensive and under certain circumstances can become an overwhelming and stressful concern for palliative care patients and their families. This fund is designed to relieve that additional pressure during an already trying time.


We understand that needs can be as unique as the patients we support. As a donor, you truly enhance the quality of life for patients and their families meeting needs large and small, but all important.

Music Therapy

Music therapy is an effective and joyful way to support patients and their families during what can be an emotional time. Our music therapist, Jill Murphy, says the release music can bring can strengthen the lines of communication and provide solace through song. Often, families are able to sit back and watch their loved one get sheer pleasure from singing the songs that served as a soundtrack to their life.


“They’re there for all the appointments and waiting in doctors’ offices, they get to enjoy this together.” Jill says husbands and wives often reminisce about the songs – their first dance, their wedding dance or ones popular at family ceilidhs. The music serves as a vehicle that brings with it happy memories, enabling a return to those times.


Another aspect of the music therapy service are Legacy CDs. “Palliative care patients often want to give a gift to their family and friends,” says Jill. These CDs — which can include favourite songs, or a special song written as a tribute for the family. It can become a unique and lasting gift with the patient’s voice – and sometimes words – forever saved.

Flower Program

Every Thursday morning a small group of dedicated volunteers gather in the An Cala Board Room at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital to create lovely flower arrangements for all patients in the palliative care service. “The flower ladies” as they are affectionately known are a group of eight women, who alternate weeks working in two groups of four, started their work in a closet back in 1994.


They continue their work today bringing joy and warmth to patients and families with a simple visit and flowers in hand. They are a creative lot, customizing the arrangements to mark special holidays and seasons of the year, delivering the bright floral arrangements with a smile. As with all things offered by the Society, community partners support this important outreach to patients.


Ongoing education is critical to ensuring the best care for our patients. Through our donors, our Society funds education for palliative care staff, volunteers and board members. This is a priority so Cape Breton patients can continue to receive the highest level of quality palliative care here at home.


The Society allocates funds for representatives to attend appropriate provincial and national palliative care conferences and workshops. The Society also brings in guest speakers to support the palliative care program and organizes workshops. Palliative Care literature is available at the An Cala Unit for patients and families.

Bereavement Program

Through donor supports the Society is able to offer a Bereavement Program to families, friends and caregivers of palliative care patients as a support service following the death of a loved one.


Bereavement volunteers receive training through the Society. They will maintain a relationship with the patients’ next of kin for a year following a patient’s death, to help the family deal with grief when necessary.  The Society, through the Bereavement Co-ordinator, can offer suggestions for community support group participation as well.


In addition to phone calls, in certain circumstances, the bereavement co-ordinator will make house calls to family members after their loved one has died. Anna Heron says this service has been invaluable. Her son died last spring. “I really needed someone to talk to.”


A Service of Remembrance is held twice a year to celebrate the life of loved ones who have passed within the six-month period. It is a moving, yet uplifting service, remembering the loved ones who have died, and extending thanks to family and caregivers. The name of each person who has died in the palliative care service during that six-month period is read aloud. It is a touching ceremony that offers solace and support to those in attendance.


This is another example of palliative care being about much more than the patient. Months after the patient has passed, this service is offered to aid in the grieving process. Letting families know they are not alone, despite the loss and loneliness they may be feeling, is an important part of the healing process. The soulful music allows for reflection and comfort. It is a personal time shared with those who have shared a similar experience. It is also an evening for families, friends, staff and volunteers to re-connect with the many people who participated in the journey of the loved ones that have passed. These are held on the first Monday of June and November and families and caregivers are invited to attend.

Pet Therapy Program

Furry friends bring smiles and joy. That’s what the pet therapy program does for palliative care patients. Working with Therapeutic Paws of Canada and the St. John Ambulance Pet Therapy Program, pet therapy is offered weekly to palliative care patients.  Because of donor support, therapy dogs are able to visit with patients and their families, offering comfort during a difficult time.