Caregiver Resources

When a loved one has a cardiac event such as a heart attack or open heart surgery, it can mean big changes in your life. Don’t hesitate to seek out the help you need.

This list can help you find many of the resources available to you. The following topics are covered:

Convalescent Care and Respite Care

Some patients may need continuous support for the first few weeks after their discharge from the hospital. Many long-term care facilities offer convalescent beds.

Respite care offers temporary living arrangements or home care to provide a period of relief for regular caregivers.



Returning to driving is an important question that many patients ask us about.
The Ontario Ministry of Transportation is responsible for deciding when it is okay for you to drive and your doctor is legally obligated to inform the Ministry if you have a medical condition that may impact your fitness to drive.

It is well known that medical conditions such as heart arrhythmias or other serious heart problems can make even the best drivers unsafe and the Ministry takes this information into account when making decisions about your license.

Even if the person you are caring for continues to drive, you may need occasional help.


  • In Ottawa, OC Transpo operates ParaTranspo for people unable to use the regular bus system.
    Phone: 613-244-1289
  • The Société de transport de l’Outaouais (French) or (English) has a similar program in the Gatineau area.
    Phone: 819-770-3242
  • There are various services available that will provide driving assistance, often for a nominal fee. The ChamplainHealthline maintains this list of transportation resources.

Employment Insurance – Sick Benefits and Compassionate Care Benefits

Employment insurance (EI) is for more than just being out of work. It also provides sick benefits for those unable to work because of sickness, injury or quarantine. Benefits are available for up to 15 weeks. EI also provides compassionate care benefits for up to six weeks for those unable to work because they are caring for a gravely ill family member at risk of death within 26 weeks.


  • Applications for both sick benefit and compassionate care benefits must be completed online. Information about the program and applications can be found at Service Canada.
    Phone: 1-800-622-6232 (1-800-O-Canada)

Finding a Family Doctor

When caring for a loved one, it is especially important to have a family doctor who can help manage ongoing care. If you don’t have a family doctor, both Ontario and Quebec have programs to help you find one.


  • Ontario: Health Care Connect will search for a family physician or nurse practitioner in your community who is accepting new patients.
    Phone: 1-800-445-1822

Home Care/Support

Home care services are provided in Ontario by the Community Care Access Centre (CCAC) and in Quebec by Local Community Service Centres (CLSC). A care coordinator will assess your loved one to determine his or her needs and develop a plan to respond to them. Referrals for care must be submitted by your physician. Care is provided at no cost.



Meals can be a source of stress for caregivers-not only the time to shop for them and prepare them, but also the need to make changes to ensure a heart-healthy diet. Fortunately, there are many services available, from assistance with grocery shopping to the delivery of frozen meals.


  • See this list of Home Help Resources (pdf) for service providers who can help with meals.
  • Personal chefs are available to come to your home, cook meals to order, and leave you with a freezer full of meals. Searching online for personal chefs to find options in your area.


Managing Multiple Medications

After a cardiac event, your loved one may be taking multiple medications, many for the first time. Keeping track of which medication to take when and how much can be challenging.


  • MedsCheck: The Ontario government’s MedsCheck program supports an annual consultation with a pharmacist for anyone taking three or more prescription medications for a chronic condition (such as heart disease). The consultation is a chance to talk with your pharmacist about how to get the most benefit from your prescription, over-the-counter and alternative medications.
  • Get a Medication Organizer: You can find different systems to organize your medications at your pharmacy, such as pill boxes organized by the day and time of day, so you can load them up in advance with all the medications that need to be taken at various times. With these systems, it is also obvious if a dose has been missed. Ask your pharmacist which one would be best for your situation.

Paying for Medications

The cost of medications can add up, even with insurance. Here are some ways to get some help.


  • If You Have Private Insurance: Private health insurance typically includes prescription drug coverage, but often has a deductible and/or co-pay that you are responsible for. If you find these payments difficult to make, there may be ways to reduce the cost. Many drug companies provide financial assistance to those who need help. Contact them directly or check their websites to find out if you are eligible for assistance.
  • If the Patient Is Over 65: All Ontario residents with valid OHIP coverage get automatic drug coverage through the Ontario Drug Benefit (ODB), beginning the first day of the month after their 65th birthday. You will pay a deductible of $100 each year and a fee of up to $6.11 for each prescription. Many pharmacies absorb that payment; ask your pharmacist if your pharmacy does.
    Phone: 1-866-811-9893 (toll-free)
  • For low-Income Seniors: Under the Ontario Drug Benefit, low-income seniors do not pay the deductible and pay a lower co-payment of just $2.00. Ask your pharmacist.
    Phone: 1-888-405-0405 (toll-free)
  • If You Have High Drug Costs Relative to Your Income: Regardless of your age, the Trillium Drug Program helps with high medication costs. Patients covered under this program pay a yearly deductible in four equal payments (one every February, May, August and November) and then pay just $2.00/prescription after that. Any unpaid deductible in one quarter will be added to the next quarter’s deductible. The program covers all members of a household, including children who depend on you financially.

    Some drugs are not covered under the Trillium program. Check with your pharmacist or healthcare provider to ensure your prescriptions are covered or to find a substitute that is covered.
    Phone: 1-800-575-5386 (toll-free)
  • If You Live in Quebec: By law, all Quebec residents must be covered by a drug plan, whether private or public. A French brochure is available online; an English version is available on request.
    Phone: 1-800-561-9749 (toll-free)

Regardless of your situation, any drug costs (or any other medical expenses) that you pay out-of-pocket are a deduction on your income tax, reducing the amount of income tax you pay or increasing your refund.


A patient in Ontario who meets the criteria for needing oxygen therapy at home can have the full costs of equipment, supplies and services covered through the Assistive Devices Program. An application must be filled out by the patient and the physician or nurse practitioner.
Phone: 1-800-268-6021 (toll-free)

Personal Emergency Response/MedicAlert

If something happens to your loved one while you’re not there, it’s good to know you have back up.


  • Personal Emergency Response Systems: These systems have a button to press for help in an emergency, embedded in a pendant or bracelet. Two options are:
  • MedicAlert: Gain further peace of mind with a MedicAlert bracelet that lets first responders know that your loved one has a heart condition or other chronic disease if he or she is not able to communicate. Subsidies are available for those with low income.
    Phone: 1-800-668-1507 (toll-free)


Options may be available to receive government-funded physiotherapy.


Power of Attorney

A Power of Attorney is a legal document that gives someone else the right to act on behalf of your loved one. The Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee has a Power of Attorney Kit that will help ensure that the right person has the authority to make decisions on behalf of your loved one if he or she is not able to do so. The website provides information about what is involved in a Power of Attorney, how to set one up and about related topics such as living wills.
Phone: 1-800-366-0335

Substitute Decision Making

As a caregiver, you are always your loved one’s advocate. But there may come a time when you need to make decisions on his or her behalf. Ontario has a Health Care Consent Act that sets out the conditions under which this takes place and how to ensure that you have the authority you need to make decisions. Sections 20 and 21 set out the list of persons who may give or refuse consent and the principles of giving or refusing consent.

Travelling for Care


  • Travelling from Northern Ontario: If your loved one is travelling from northern Ontario to receive care at the Heart Institute, the Northern Health Travel Grant can help ease the costs.The grant reimburses a portion of travel costs for the patient and, if the patient is under 16 years of age, a companion, as well as accommodation costs. Your payment will be reimbursed after you travel.
    Phone: 1-800-461-4006 (toll-free)
  • Travelling from Nunavut: The Ottawa Health Services Network Inc. is a non-profit organization that coordinates health care in Ottawa for residents of the Baffin region of Nunavut.
    Phone: 613-5234-7822


Contemplating mortality can be difficult. But a cardiac event can serve to remind you that a will is essential to ensure that your estate or that of your loved one is settled according to your decisions and desires, not the laws of your province or territory.


General Resource Listings

  • can connect you with a wide range of information, services and support in any region of Ontario. It includes the blog Spotlight on Caregiving.
  • Champlain Healthline 
    This site provides information on local health care services in the Champlain region of Eastern Ontario.
  • is the portal for regional healthline sites for health care services across Ontario.

Note: Inclusion of any particular provider or business on this list does not constitute an endorsement by the University of Ottawa Heart Institute.