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How to Talk to Children about Serious Illness

When a family member or loved one is seriously ill, the thought of explaining the illness to your child may feel overwhelming, particularly if you don’t think they are capable of fully understanding the situation.

However, children are often more aware of what’s going on than you might think. In fact, not speaking to your child about the illness might leave them more confused and anxious. Often, children sense tension or stress in others, no matter how discreet you try to be.

By speaking to your child about your loved one’s illness, you are providing some context for them to understand and face the changes ahead: changes in their loved one’s health, in their family dynamic or in their daily routine.

Following are some tips for talking to your child about their loved one’s illness.

  • Tell your child the truth about the illness, but in a developmentally appropriate way according to their age and cognitive capacity.
  • Let the child lead the conversation; answer only what they are asking right now.
  • Avoid making any promises about recovery or cure, but let your child know that it’s okay to have hopes and wishes for the sick person.
  • Understand that preschool-age children are likely to ask the same questions repeatedly over time. Rather than one conversation addressing the illness, plan to have an ongoing interaction that unfolds over time.
  • Prepare your child for any possible changes in their normal routine. For young children in particular, schedules are reassuring and provide security. If a routine will be altered due to a loved one’s illness, telling the child ahead of time can help them be mentally prepared.
  • Anticipate misunderstandings. Children have typically only experienced illness as a short-term issue and may be confused about why their loved one isn’t getting better. You might find that you need to explain the longevity of the illness many times before your child truly understands.
  • Prepare your child for changes in behavior. Particularly in the case of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, it can be distressing for your child to see their loved one’s personality change so drastically. You can mitigate this distress by preparing your child for the changes they are likely to see. You might say something such as, “Grandma’s illness makes her forget things, but she still loves you and wants to spend time with you.”
  • Let the child help. Whether they want to color pictures for their loved one or even push their wheelchair, it can be incredibly therapeutic for your child to feel useful during this confusing time. By giving them a concrete task, you are providing your child both distraction from the stress and an outlet for their emotional energy.

If your child is coping with the illness of a loved one, Kids Path can help. Call 336.544.5437 to speak with a licensed Kids Path counselor.

Preventing Teen Suicide: Common Questions About How to Keep Teens Safe

It’s a difficult topic to think about—no one wants to believe that their child would consider suicide. Teens who have recently experienced the death of a loved one may be at increased risk for thoughts of suicide, particularly when impacted by other factors such as substance use, bullying or LGBTQ identity.

Here are some questions that parents and caregivers frequently ask about teen suicide risk, along with guidelines for helping to keep your teen safe.

Q: “If I bring up suicide, won’t that just put the idea into their head?”

A: It’s not possible to create suicidal urges simply by talking about it. In fact, communicating honestly with your child about their thoughts and feelings is one of the most important things you can do to protect them.

Q: “Is this just a way to get attention? Maybe my child is being dramatic.”

A: It’s important to treat any talk of suicide very seriously. Show your teen that their safety is your highest priority, and talk honestly with them about their suicidal thoughts. A “cry for help” should be addressed with the same urgency as a life-threatening physical illness.

Q: “Does suicide just happen out of the blue?”

A: There are often warning signs for suicide, but they may be subtle. A teen who is considering suicide may make statements about being a burden, such as “Everyone would be better off without me.” They may show abrupt changes in mood, such as anxiety or agitation, or begin to engage in reckless behavior. A detailed list of warning signs for youth suicide can be found at this link:

Talking with Your Teen about Suicidal Thoughts

The best time to approach this topic is before you have specific concerns. Let your teen know that it’s always okay to discuss thoughts and feelings, even ones that are negative or frightening. Bring up recent news stories that involve suicide and give your teen an opportunity to express their reactions. For some teens, communicating with you through text messages might feel less threatening.

You can also provide other resources. Some families post emergency numbers, such as 1-800-273-TALK (8225) or the Crisis Text Line (text HOME to 741741), in their home as a reminder for teens to reach out if they are in crisis.

If you wonder whether your teen is at risk, it’s best to be direct: “I’m really concerned right now. Have you been having thoughts about suicide?” Any suicidal thoughts or plan should be evaluated immediately at the nearest emergency room or emergency mental health clinic.

It’s normal to feel nervous about discussing these risks, but a teen’s safety is certainly worth broaching an uncomfortable conversation.

Ask a Kids Path Counselor

Kids Path offers no-cost phone consultations with licensed counselors, available to anyone who is grieving a loss or coping with the impact of serious illness. If you have questions about how to best support your child or teen through grief, call 336.544.5437 and ask to speak with a counselor.

Hospice Volunteers Win Governor’s Award

(GREENSBORO, NORTH CAROLINA)– The 200+ volunteers of Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro (HPCG) have received a Governor’s Volunteer Service Award. This honor, created by the Office of the Governor in 1979, recognizes North Carolina’s most dedicated volunteers.

“Our volunteers are so deserving of this award,” said Teresa Canady, director of volunteer services at HPCG. “When our volunteer team receives a request from a patient or family, we never say ‘no.’ We always say ‘we will try’ because we know our volunteers will come through and generously accept nearly any request in order to help a patient and family.”

This past year, HPCG volunteers donated a combined 13,365 hours of service. These hours included caregiver relief, patient companionship, cake baking, gardening, administrative assistance, special projects, transportation, event assistance, outreach, facility visits, Veteran-to-Veteran visits, pet therapy and music therapy.

HPCG was founded by a small group of grassroots volunteers in 1980. Even as hospice care has evolved and become highly specialized—utilizing doctors, nurses, counselors, social workers and chaplains—Medicare preserved the role of volunteers; every hospice is required to demonstrate that 5 percent of all care hours are provided by trained volunteers. Yet HPCG regularly exceeds this requirement.

Most often this service comes in the form of regular visits to a hospice patient’s home or facility, during which time the volunteer may run errands, read to the patient, engage in friendly conversation or simply offer quiet presence. Hospice volunteers provide much-needed relief for family caregivers and meaningful connection for patients.

“I hear so many wonderful stories about how transformative a family’s relationship with a volunteer has been,” said Kristen Yntema, president and CEO of HPCG. “From our beautiful gardens, to our handwritten thank-you cards, to our smoothly-run events and so much more, we have our volunteers to thank.”

To receive a Governor’s Volunteer Service Award, each North Carolina County submits ten nominees across a variety of categories. The governor’s office then narrows this down to 20-25 award recipients across the state. Awards are expected to be distributed during National Volunteer Week, April 7-13.


About HPCG

HPCG is a nonprofit organization that serves an average of 350 patients per day in Guilford County and surrounding areas. It is situated on a 14.75 acre campus at 2500 Summit Avenue. Since 1980, HPCG has been providing physical, emotional and spiritual support for children and adults faced with a life-limiting illness, as well as their caregivers and families. For more information, call 336.621.2500 or visit

Download PDF of press release here.

Self-Care Tips for Grieving Parents

The death or serious illness of a loved one can affect all members of a family. Often, a parent may think first of a child’s need for grief counseling. However, we know that children are more likely to be resilient in the face of loss when their caregiver is being supported as well.

Kids Path counselors often encourage caregivers to “put on your own oxygen mask first.” In other words, a parent who is not exhausted or emotionally depleted will be better able to support their children.

Here are some tips for maintaining self-care when your family is coping with loss related to death or illness.

Take care of your body’s basic needs.

Just as you would focus on basic physical needs if you were recovering from the flu, it’s important to acknowledge the impact of grief on your physical functioning. Try to ensure that you are getting enough sleep, eating regularly, and staying hydrated. You don’t have to be perfect at it, but caring for yourself physically is just as important as caring for yourself psychologically at this time.

Incorporate sensory soothing.

Consider how you can bring small sensory comforts into your day, such as using a lotion with a relaxing scent or listening to music that is soothing for you. You may find that you want additional comforts to help you sleep at night, such as white noise from a fan or a heavy blanket on your bed. This can even be a game you share with children in the family, where each person tries to name two comforting things for each of the five senses: touch, sight, smell, taste and sound.

Express emotions.

You are most likely feeling many emotions related to your loss, including sadness or anger. It’s important to find healthy ways to express these feelings, such as talking with a trusted friend. You could also try journaling about your feelings, hitting the couch or bed with a pool noodle or using movement (playing basketball, running or just dancing to the radio). Crying is also an excellent way to release strong emotions. If you prefer privacy, some people recommend crying in the shower!

Seek grief counseling and support groups.

If a significant loss is making it difficult to function in your everyday responsibilities, you don’t have to go it alone. Kids Path works closely with the Counseling and Education Center, a bereavement program for adults that is also part of Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro. A trained bereavement counselor can meet with you individually to provide coping tools and insight about the grief process. There are also support groups focusing on specific types of losses that present special challenges, such as overdose or suicide.

How Kids Path Can Help: The licensed counselors at Kids Path offer free phone consultations to assist you in finding an appropriate community resource for your family’s support needs. Simply call 336.544.5437 and ask to speak with a counselor.

Hospice Organizations Announce Intent-to-Merger Plans

Alamance-Caswell & Greensboro Hospice Organizations Announce Intent-to-Merger Plans to Better Meet End-Of-Life Care Needs for Patients and Families

March 6, 2019

(Burlington & Greensboro, NC)– Two of the leading not-for-profit hospice organizations in North Carolina announced plans to explore combining operations, staff and outreach efforts to better meet end-of-life care needs of residents in Alamance, Caswell, Guilford and surrounding counties. Hospice and Palliative Care of Alamance-Caswell (HPCAC) and Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro (HPCG) have signed an intent-to-merge agreement effective September 30th, pending due diligence reviews and final board approvals.

The two organizations currently serve more than 3,000 hospice patients annually with thousands of additional community members utilizing a wide range of palliative healthcare, education and counseling services. The combined organization will also explore adopting a yet-unchosen new name.

“Our organizations are dedicated to care for those with serious illness to help them and their families live as fully and comfortably as possible,” said Peter Barcus, CEO of HPCAC. “We have a like-minded approach to providing care as mission-driven, not-for-profit hospice organizations. Exploring a combination of our operations will allow us to determine how we might share service areas, avoid unnecessary duplication, adopt best practices from both organizations, and better align us with healthcare providers and maximize access to services.”

While leadership decisions have not been finalized, Barcus is expected to continue in a senior strategic consulting role  while Kristen Yntema, current CEO of HPCG, is expected to remain as CEO after the merger is completed. Caroline H. Durham, CFO of HPCAC, will assume the CFO role in the new organization as James T. “Tab” Haigler, CFO for HPCG, will move into a consulting role. The new organization is projected to keep open all current patient facilities, including the 22-bed Hospice Home in Burlington and the 14-bed Beacon Place facility in Greensboro. No staff layoffs are planned.

“In the coming months, our organizations will conduct due diligence and planning sessions to provide our boards with the information they need to make a final determination on merging our organizations and ensuring a seamless transition with no disruptions in patient care,” said Yntema. “We anticipate crafting a new mission, vision and name for the new organization with hopes that we will begin operations as one organization on October 1.”

In addition to ensuring more operating efficiencies, the combined organization will be able to recruit a deeper talent pool of nurses and staff. It will also strengthen the organization’s long-term position as a not-for-profit leader in a rapidly changing healthcare environment.

“A growing number of for-profit hospices are entering the Triad market, while Medicare changes are impacting how hospice care is reimbursed,” said Barcus. “This alignment between our two organizations will help ensure our communities have high-quality, not-for-profit hospice care for years to come.”

As part of this process, entities responsible for fundraising at both organizations will establish a plan for consolidating assets that honors historic donor intent and establishes a plan for future fundraising efforts. Collectively, the two organizations raise over $3 million annually to support programs and services.

HPCAC & HPCG were each formed in the early 1980s and began providing services by 1982.  Both organizations are state licensed, federally certified and nationally accredited. Services include in-home patient care, grief counseling, palliative care for families needing support and information on health-care options and Kids Path programs for children coping with serious illness and loss.

A transition team will be formed to lead the merger exploration work. The boards of directors for both organizations will be actively involved in these efforts, and the merger must be approved by both organizations before it is finalized.

“Our focus will remain on enabling our patients and their families to live more fully and discover life’s most important moments while addressing serious illness, death and grief,” said Yntema.

Questions? Click here to review our Frequently Asked Questions.


About Hospice and Palliative Care of Alamance-Caswell

Hospice and Palliative Care of Alamance-Caswell is a not-for-profit hospice and home health care provider founded in 1982 to care for those with serious illness or conditions, and their families, to help them live as fully and comfortably as possible. HPCAC also provides home health care, a 22-bed Hospice Home and counseling for children and adults.

About Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro

Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro is a not-for-profit organization serving Guilford County and surrounding areas since 1980. HPCG provides home-based hospice care, operates a freestanding fourteen-bed hospice facility, a robust grief counseling and community education program, a pediatric hospice program, and a community-based palliative care service.

Media Contact

Monty Hagler

Download PDF of press release.

Dealing With Your Loved One’s Belongings

Sorting a lifetime’s worth of someone else’s belongings is a task difficult on its own, but with the added emotional burden of grief, it might seem entirely impossible.

Of course, the process will be emotional, time-consuming and difficult; but it will also be rewarding and satisfying. You will discover what matters most to you, and make room in your heart and home for those objects that are most meaningful.

If you’re not sure how to begin sorting through your loved one’s things, you can use the “Four Ps” to get started.

The Four Ps

  1. Pick Participants.

Decide who you want to involve in this process. Of course the old mantra “many hands make light work” is true of a lot of large projects, but in this instance, you may find that many hands do more harm than good. Because this is such a personal and emotional task, consider only involving those who you feel knew your loved one well. A helpful exercise is to imagine one of your loved one’s most precious keepsakes. Who would recognize its importance? By limiting participation, you are ensuring that you won’t have to worry about valuable items being discarded.

  1. Prioritize.

Start by listing out those tasks that are time-sensitive. Did your loved one own a business? Did they have a home that now has to be sold? Decide what needs to be dealt with urgently. Remember that smaller tasks can always be left for later. For example, if you need to sell a house quickly, consider renting a storage unit and going through things after the fact. If you put too much pressure on yourself to do everything all at once, you might find the emotional and physical effects to be overwhelming.

  1. Plan. 

Just starting such a large and emotionally burdensome project is often the hardest part of the whole process. Of course, start with the most urgent and high-priority tasks. But after that, consider breaking the process down into smaller projects. For example, you can sort items by room or by category. Start with something easy, such as tools or clothes, and save more difficult or sentimental things for last. You will find that having a game plan makes the whole project feel much more manageable.

  1. Pace yourself.

You’ve already decided what things are most urgent. After you’ve dealt with any time-sensitive tasks, slow down. Set small, manageable goals. If you start to feel overwhelmed, take a break and treat yourself to an outing or a conversation with a friend. Although going through your loved one’s belongings is a large task, it doesn’t have to be miserable. By taking your time and being gentle with yourself, you may find that the process becomes a satisfying, rewarding and even enjoyable way to remember and honor your loved one.

How Play Therapy Helps Grieving Children

As adults, we often picture counseling or therapy as someone sitting in a room talking to a professional about their problems. However, counseling with children often requires a different approach due to the developmental age of the child. Your child’s counselor may offer them opportunities to use different types of imaginative play materials, such as puppets, dollhouse elements, art supplies or figures in a sand tray.

Families sometimes wonder whether “just playing” can truly be therapeutic in helping children cope with grief and loss. The play therapy rooms at Kids Path are filled with carefully chosen toys, games and activities designed to let kids outwardly express their internal experiences. Dr. Garry Landreth, a pioneer of play therapy, explains it this way: “In play therapy, toys are viewed as the child’s words and play as the child’s language.”

Following are some of the key benefits of play therapy for grieving children.

Allowing symbolic expression of feelings

It can be difficult for kids to identify or verbally describe how they are feeling. Play therapy provides a safe space where a child can use a puppet to voice feelings, or demonstrate an emotion through the actions of a toy. A child who is not able to speak out loud about their inner experience will often be willing to show it through play.

Opportunities to self-regulate strong emotions

Young children have not yet fully developed their capacity for big feelings. Child-directed play therapy allows the child to engage in activities that naturally provide nervous system regulation, such as scooping and pouring sand.

A way to be in control of a scary situation

 Sometimes in play therapy, children create imaginative scenarios with elements of danger—for example, they might narrate a story about a zebra that falls into quicksand and becomes buried. Because the child is in full control of what happens next, they can use imaginative play to indirectly process feelings of worry or fear while remaining safe and in-control.

Experiencing resilience and mastery

Play therapy provides many chances for a child to explore unfamiliar activities and learn resilience. Counselors who use play therapy are trained in specific ways to support children through frustration while they are building new skills, which then become a source of self-esteem.

Children’s Grief Counseling at Kids Path

Children as young as 4 years old may be eligible for play therapy and other individual counseling at Kids Path after experiencing a significant loss due to death or illness. Kids Path counseling is available at no charge. Call 336.544.5437 to speak with a licensed Kids Path counselor.

Hospice Offers Free Lunch & Learn Series

(GREENSBORO, NORTH CAROLINA)– Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro (HPCG) is excited to announce the new season of Lunch & Learn at the Lusk Center, a free lecture series designed to help participants with a variety of complex care and health issues.

Each hour-long workshop is presented by topic experts and held at HPCG’s Lusk Center, located at 2501 Summit Avenue in Greensboro. Lunch is provided, along with practical, community-focused resources.

Each event is free and open to the public. All workshops take place from noon – 1 p.m. with check-in beginning at 11:30 a.m.

The program is made possible through generous support from Beverly and Patrick Wright as well as the John A. Lusk, III Endowment Fund for Hospice and Palliative Care Education.

Visit for more information and to register.

Lunch & Learn at the Lusk Center
2019 Schedule

Advance Care Planning: How to Plan for End-of-Life Decisions
Thursday, March 14
Learn about advance directives, why and when they’re used and how to talk about end-of-life decisions with family.

What Really Matters: Changing Priorities Near End of Life
Thursday, April 25
Join us for a thoughtful, interactive discussion about the end-of-life journey and how to capture meaningful moments along the way.

Palliative Care vs. Hospice Care: What’s the Difference?
Thursday, June 13
Discover the difference between hospice and palliative care, how these services can help and who pays for them.

The Caregiver Experience: Navigating Rough Waters
Thursday, July 11
Caring for a loved one can be demanding. Join us as we explore ways caregivers can maintain—or regain—balance and hope.

Dementia Talk: Why Do They Do That … and What Can I Do About it?
Thursday, August 15
Learn practical strategies for addressing the four most difficult dementia behaviors: bath wars, social problems, aggression and agitation.

Beyond the Casserole: How to Truly Support Grieving Persons
Thursday, September 12
What gives real comfort to those who are grieving? Hear what deeply grieving persons wish others understood, and learn how to be of support to friends and family in grief.

About HPCG
HPCG, a nonprofit organization serving Guilford County and surrounding areas since 1980, is situated on a 14.75 acre campus at 2500 Summit Avenue. HPCG provides physical, emotional and spiritual support for children and adults faced with a life-limiting illness, as well as their caregivers and families. For more information, call 336.621.2500 or visit


Click here to download PDF of press release. 

Tickets Now on Sale for Corks for Kids Path

(GREENSBORO, NORTH CAROLINA)– Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro (HPCG) will hold the 12th annual Corks for Kids Path fundraiser on Friday, March 8 at the Cadillac Service Garage in downtown Greensboro. This wine-tasting event benefits Kids Path, an HPCG program that supports children coping with serious illness and loss.

With a ticket purchase of $80, guests can sample a variety of handcrafted wines exclusively selected by Zeto Wine and Cheese shop, as well as locally crafted beer, hors d’oeuvres and decadent baked goods. The event also features an extensive silent auction.

“We are so thrilled to have Crumley Roberts return as the presenting sponsor,” said Kristen Yntema, president and CEO of HPCG. “They have such a heart for Kids Path.”

Since its inception more than a decade ago, Corks for Kids Path has raised more than $1 million for Kids Path. This generous support means Kids Path can provide quality hospice care for children, along with counseling, camps and workshops to children who are grieving.

Tickets sell out quickly. Visit to purchase.

About HPCG

HPCG, a nonprofit organization serving Guilford County and surrounding areas since 1980, is situated on a 14.75 acre campus at 2500 Summit Avenue. HPCG provides physical, emotional and spiritual support for children and adults faced with a life-limiting illness, as well as their caregivers and families. For more information, call 336.621.2500 or visit


Click here to download a PDF of press release. 

How to Communicate with your Grieving Teen


Adolescence can be an exciting time of self-discovery and identity development. However, as adolescents seek more independence, families may find this time filled with disagreements and periods of irritability and frustration.

When a young person experiences significant loss during this already tumultuous time, their family may notice unexpected and concerning changes in the teen’s behavior.

Because adolescence can be a difficult time on its own, it’s important to provide your teen with consistent support and attention. The best way to help is to first understand how a teenager’s grief differs from an adult’s.

Depending on the role of the person who died, many aspects of day-to-day life may have changed, including the teen’s emotional support system, family structure, financial stability or living arrangements. Their entire sense of normalcy might be shifting around them—on top of their grief. That’s a lot to handle for anyone, but it’s especially burdensome for a young person who is not fully emotionally developed. The feeling that they have no control over their lives might cause them to act out in order to regain a sense of control.

Adolescents have their whole lives ahead of them. They are most likely not just mourning the person who died, but also all of the future milestones that person will miss (graduation, marriage, children). If they lost a parent or caregiver, this sense of “missing out” may be particularly keen.

The key to communicating with a grieving teenager is empathy and understanding. Keep all of the above factors in mind when approaching your teen to talk. Following are some tactics to help you guide your teenager through this difficult time:

  • Don’t force them to talk. Let them know that you are there for them when they are ready.
  • Give them choices about their future whenever practical and appropriate. This will help them regain a sense of control over their life.
  • Encourage them to talk to others. Your child might be more willing to talk openly with friends, teachers, coaches or mentors.
  • Be honest with them. Although it’s important to protect them from adult burdens (finances, etc.), being open with your teen about future plans can help them feel safe and secure.
  • Give them structure. Planning family dinners or game nights lets your teen feel a comforting sense of normalcy and routine. In addition, family bonding in a relaxed, fun setting may encourage your teen to open up to you.
  • Reach out to a professional. Enrolling your teenager in grief counseling or a support group after the loss of a loved one can be very helpful. Kids Path offers teen support groups and individual counseling facilitated by licensed counselors. Having a neutral space to discuss their feelings, and a group of people who relate to their experience, is therapeutic for a teen that is navigating grief.

To learn more about individual grief counseling or grief support events for teens, please call Kids Path at 336.544.5437.