One-to-one peer support with MAID Family Support Society  

News & Updates | June 2, 2023 | Dying With Dignity Canada

Home / News & Updates / One-to-one peer support with MAID Family Support Society  
The MAID Family Support Society logo

Signy Novak is the founder and director of MAID Family Support Society (MFSS). Her father chose an assisted death on July 25, 2018, and she realized how helpful it would have been to have someone to talk to who had gone through the same experience. In 2019, she began researching the idea of an organization supporting folks specifically navigating medical assistance in dying (MAID), and in April 2021 MFSS was founded.  

A headshot of Signy Novak, MAID Family Support Services founder and director.

Who does MFSS support and what services do you provide?  

MFSS offers one-to-one peer support for those supporting someone choosing MAID or grieving a MAID loss.  

By filling out a form on our website and answering questions specific to your experience, MFSS will match you to a volunteer who can best support you. For example, if your loved one is early in the stages of considering MAID, you are losing a spouse, a child or a parent, or your loved one has a dementia diagnosis, MFSS will connect you to someone who had a similar experience. The volunteer will then connect with you by email, phone, text or Zoom – whatever you prefer – and provide support. The support can be pre- or post-MAID provision, depending on your circumstance. Because these requests are time sensitive, we do our best to respond within 24 hours and begin connecting you with a volunteer matched to your needs.  

The MFSS volunteer does a lot of listening; they answer any questions you might have, explore other resources that are available, identify who else is in your caring circle and help you navigate your feelings and grief. Support offered by MFSS is usually up to six hours, one hour at a time, but this varies with each individual. 

In what ways does a MAID death differ from a natural death, and how do you support loved ones navigating a MAID death based on the differences?   

With a MAID death you have control over the time, place and experiences you want to have before the provision. I remember having a small party with my dad in his room at hospice, where we had surrounded him with all his favourite things. His last words to the physician were, “Keep doing the great things you are doing with MAID.” He had a smile on his face. 

Knowing the actual time and date of a loved one’s death can be stressful. It can feel like a clock ticking. Sometimes our volunteers help loved ones navigate this unique aspect of a MAID death.  

There can be issues when someone in the circle of care or the individual choosing MAID wants to keep the decision to have an assisted death private. There can also be spiritual- or religious-based conflicts which can be very challenging.   

Can you share a story of the impact of the work of MFSS?  

A while back, a health care professional used our services and she struggled with the MAID journey her loved one had chosen. She knew all the things she should be doing to take care of herself, but she wasn’t doing them. Our volunteer listened, gave her gentle reminders about the importance of self-care, and she was so appreciative of the advice to go slow in her grief and take care of herself. We all need these reminders, and our volunteer made such a difference in how this person navigated that difficult experience. 

What advice would you give to someone who is considering or has been approved for MAID?  

I suggest you start by talking to your family and loved ones; let them know where you are coming from so they can understand what has led you to this decision. Even if your family supports your decision, it can be a shock to hear it, so taking time to share your thoughts and feelings can help everyone come to terms with your choice.    

Seeking out your own support can be critical. Some people feel they are alone in this journey, but don’t be afraid to reach out to others. For those choosing MAID for themselves, Bridge C-14 offers support through drop-in groups.  

And finally, if you’ve had a dementia diagnosis, act early as the capacity for consent is essential.  

What advice would you give to someone whose loved one is considering or has been approved for MAID?  

Deep breaths and self-care. Ultimately, you have no control over the person’s decision but arming yourself with information and support can be very helpful. We never want our loved ones to die, but understanding their decision and supporting it is so important.  

What’s next for MFSS?  

As we build our support roster for people from coast to coast to coast, we welcome more volunteers who have supported someone through MAID. As requests from those navigating a spouse with dementia continue to rise, volunteers with this specific lived experience can be especially helpful. 

Another unique service being developed is our spiritual support network. MFSS has some volunteers with a spiritual or religious background to provide support but we would like to add more to our volunteer base as the requests for spiritual support increase. More and more, spiritual care providers are asked to provide support for people seeking MAID or to care for the individual’s family as they come to terms with MAID requests. 

Our volunteers and board members have increased outreach to various organizations who may have patients or clients who could benefit from our services. We are also hearing from health care organizations and hospices who are seeing the need for support related to MAID.   

We will continue to expand our services based on need when we can.  

We are awaiting our charitable status, but we currently can accept donations to support our services. 

For more information about MAID Family Support Society, visit their website here.  

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