Joan and James (Jim) Dempsey


When young love unites, newlyweds look forward to the lifetime they will spend together; making memories, cheering each other on to reach new goals, advancing in their careers, and enriching each others lives. That is just what Joan and Jim did.

J and J’s love story started when they were both teachers. She a History and English instructor, he English literature.The two were married in 1969; a union that sparked decades of joy. They bonded over their shared love for reading, music and basketball and spent time traveling, and passing countless hours immersed in great conversations and long walks through Toronto’s parks. She cooked and he cleaned. They became an inseparable team.

When Jim began experiencing health issues in 2010, the couple navigated the health system together.  Jim had an undiagnosed autoimmune disease and they learned that Jim’s kidney function was deteriorating. Over time, Joan took on duties as Jim’s full-time caregiver. They attended his appointments at the renal clinic and effectively managed his kidney function through diet with the support of the clinic’s exceptional Dr. Sasal, Alia (dietician), and clinic staff.

As the years passed, Jim’s health declined, and they spent their days closer to home. In 2016, he experienced cognitive decline and began to show signs of dementia. Periodically, he would be struck with autoimmune flare-ups that required treatment. By 2019, Jim’s mental and physical struggles were further exacerbated by the global pandemic and his healthcare needs grew. By 2021, it became undeniable that Joan, 79 years old at the time, could no longer care for Jim without help.

Following some administration and assessment of Jim’s condition, his medical team recommended they seek in-home palliative care through the Dorothy Ley Hospice.
Dr. Mavrogiannis, Medical Director at the Dorothy Ley Hospice, developed a care plan for Jim and visited the Dempsey’s each week to check on Jim.  It was in the midst of the Covid pandemic and Dr. Mavrogiannis ensured that they received the equipment, PSW and medical support they needed to keep Jim comfortable. Jim died on May 17, 2021, having spent his remaining time in the home where he and Joan had built their life together.

While Jim’s journey was over, Joan’s continued. Just as the Dorothy Ley Hospice supported Jim and Joan through Jim’s illness, the care team was there for Joan in her grief and bereavement.

Jim’s road was not a smooth one and providing care for someone living with a life-limiting illness is not a simple task and can place a great deal of stress on a caregiver. When Jim died, Joan found herself alone, during the pandemic and overwhelmed by grief and anger. In follow-up to the palliative care provided to Jim and Joan, the Dorothy Ley Hospice Community Care team reached out to Joan to offer their support.

At first, Joan didn’t feel she would benefit from grief support however, on the counsel of Kelly, a bereavement counsellor at the Hospice, Joan joined the Dorothy Ley Hospice Spousal Support Group where she connected with other individuals experiencing the loss of a loved one. Within the group, she was able to connect with others who could relate to each other and gained an understanding of grief.

Later she joined a Self Compassion Circle under the leadership of two other members of the Dorothy Ley Hospice team, Pranita and Daina. This program helped her to understand the need for self-care and that such attention is not selfish. Joan continues to access meditation programs through the Hospice. Today, Joan says she’s doing reasonably well and has learned to carry grief forward. While she says she still has days when grief does flood in, she now has the ability to cope.

Joan believes she would not be functioning as well today without the support of the many talented and caring people at the Dorothy Ley Hospice.  She feels that everyone could benefit from having the opportunity to understand their grief and learn to live with it.

The Dorothy Ley Hospice is grateful toJoan Dempsey for her in-thanks donation recognizing those who helped her and Jim along their journeys.

 The Dorothy Ley Hospice is grateful to Joan Dempsey for her in-thanks donation recognizing those who helped her and Jim along their journeys.


CRA# 130193394RR0001


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