Support groups, tools, and resources are available to help people living with heart failure cope with the challenges associated with their condition.
Patient Support Communities
Although one in five people in Canada over the age of 40 will develop heart failure, it can still be an incredibly isolating condition. Engaging with a community of people with shared experiences can help you maintain or improve your quality of life and sense of well-being.
Online Communities and Groups
Online communities and support groups allows people to connect with one another at any time and from any place. Just as with in-person meetings, online groups can provide a safe, inclusive, and respectful environment.
Online support communities and services exist for people living with heart failure:
- HeartLinks Heart Transplant Support Group
The HeartLinks Heart Transplant Support Group brings together heart transplant recipients, LVAD patients, and those waiting for their Gift of Life being cared for at The Toronto General Hospital. It is open to patients, their family, and friends.
- Toronto General Hospital LVAD Support Group
An online support group for Toronto General Hospital patients with left ventricular assist devices.
The HeartLife Foundation is a patient-driven charity whose mission is to transform the quality of life for people living with heart failure by engaging, educating, and empowering a global community to create lasting solutions and build healthier lives. Patients and caregivers are invited to join their Facebook support group.
- Heart and Stroke Community of Survivors
The Community of Survivors Facebook group provides a safe and emotionally supportive place where you can share experiences and tips for life after a diagnosis, stroke, or cardiac event.
Support resources and groups specifically for women:
- Canadian Women’s Heart Health Centre
Part of the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, the Canadian Women’s Heart Health Centre is dedicated to sparking the social change needed to close the gaps and ensure women are as well-informed and well-cared for as men. You can find various support resources for Canadian women living with heart and vascular diseases on their Peer Support Hub page.
- Mending Broken Hearts
This research project led by Dr. Bernice Downey aims to help Indigenous women feel confident and capable in the self-management of their heart health and overall well-being by educating healthcare providers about Indigenous women’s lives and how they think about health and well-being. The project also strives to prevent young Indigenous women from developing heart disease and stroke. In partnership with De dwa da dehs nye>s Aboriginal Health Centre, Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation and Lake St. Martin First Nation, Mending Broken Heart website provides resources and lists upcoming community activities and events.
- WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease
WomenHeart’s is an American charity dedicated to improving the health and quality of life of women living with or at risk of heart disease, and to advocating for their benefit. They offer many ways to find support and get involved, including through their Facebook group.
- Women@Heart Program
The University of Ottawa Heart Institute’s program is a peer support program led by women with heart disease, for women with heart disease that aims to create a caring environment for women to learn from each other and support one another on the road to recovery.
- Canadian Women with Medical Heart Issues
- Private Canadian women’s lifestyle Facebook group dedicated to support and information sharing about living with heart health issues.
- Zipper Sisters: Women with CHD
- An exclusive Facebook group for females born with congenital heart defects.
- The Beat Retreat is a four-day annual retreat for adults (18+) living with congenital heart disease (CHD). The retreat provides attendees with a valuable opportunity to build life-long friendships, share and learn from each other, and participate in a range of new and exciting activities.
Mental Health Supports and Mentorship
Depression, stress, and anxiety are common among people living with heart failure. In fact, according to Heart and Stroke, for every 10 people with heart failure, five to seven will likely experience depression. As such, access to mental health care supports and communities can be incredibly important.
The following are mental health services and supports which may be helpful:
vCHAT is a study involving the use of social network support and automated digital counselling to improve health status and quality of life for persons living with chronic heart failure. Currently, the study is recruiting patient participants to participate in behavioral counseling and social network support. Visit our Research in Recruitment page to see if you are eligible for the vCHAT study and to learn more.
- Writing the Heart
Writing has been shown to have emotional and physiological benefits to those dealing with life-threatening or chronic conditions, hardship, or trauma. Facilitated by Sharon Bray, Ed.D., author, educator and heart failure patient, Writing the Heart teach participants why and how writing can be healing, whether you write alone or with others. Check our Events page to see when the next Writing the Heart Introductory or Six-Week Workshop is.
- Heart and Stroke – Living with Heart Failure
Explanations of depression, stress, and anxiety as well as tips to identify and manage them are covered in pages 54-61 of this comprehensive resource guide.
- Seamless Care Optimizing the Patient Experience (SCOPE)
In addition to empowering collaborative work between primary care providers, hospital services, and community health partners, SCOPE offers a list of resources available for patients on topics such as general counselling/therapy, online, and phone support.