Dundas County Hospice is in a small, unassuming house-like building on the east side of Highway 31, in Williamsburg, south of Winchester. You may have driven past, noticed the sign on the small beige house, acknowledged its presence, and kept on driving. We don’t think about hospice and palliative care until we find ourselves or a loved one facing a life-threatening or terminal illness, or the end of life.
Anyone can make a referral to the Dundas County Hospice, including any member of a person’s healthcare team, social agencies, nurses, doctors, friends, clergy, family of the person who is ill, or the person themselves. The Dundas County Hospice believes, that when someone is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness and accepts Hospice service, it is the job of the staff and volunteers at the Hospice to help make every day count for their clients. Palliative and Hospice Care improves the quality of life for individuals and families. It is all about living, and celebrating life, not death.
The Hospice supports the caregiver and the individual facing their illness or end of life. Staff and volunteers can help learn how to deal with illness, and learn about care, treatment, and other community support, with many resources at their disposal.
Services are offered in homes, including long-term care centres and hospitals. Groups and individuals also meet with staff and volunteers at the hospice. Trained, screened, and supervised volunteers visit the client’s home, either for companionship, assistance, or respite for the caregiver. A palliative day programme allows clients to gather for a meal. A nurse is present, and transportation can be arranged, allowing for caregiver respite. The hospice loans equipment such as wheelchairs, bath chairs, raised toilet seats, walkers, and electric lift chairs. There are workshops and one-on-one support for caregivers. Grief and bereavement support is provided individually and in groups. Workshops are also offered, grappling with topics such as “Surviving the Holidays,” to help navigate life while experiencing debilitating grief.
The Hospice can provide complementary therapies, such as foot care, massage for pain control, meditation, and haircare to home-bound clients. It also facilitates the Hospice Palliative Care Course, and can refer clients and family members to other counselling and services as needed.
I spoke to Tina MacQueen, Volunteer Coordinator, and Linda Johnson, Director of Client Services. It is immediately apparent, even through a phone interview due to the pandemic protocols, that they are both 100% invested in their jobs. Their commitment and passion for the work they are doing shines through! They, and the other hospice staff and volunteers, are committed to thinking outside the box during the pandemic, making sure that their services continue in any way possible. Some in-person sessions and groups have been shifted to online or over-the-phone, but one-on-one, and groups with reduced numbers, are still held when possible with Covid-19 Health Unit rules and guidelines.
Covid-19 has taken so many of our support systems away by limiting social contact and ritual gathering. Mourning is the outside expression of loss. Grief is what happens inside. Grief work needs to start before loss. Funerals, church services, and other spiritual expressions have been disallowed. Gatherings of family and friends have been suspended.
Hospice is something we don’t think about until we have to. Death is something few of us want to think about very much at all. It’s hard and it hurts. We think it’s too early, that there’s plenty of time. We only become aware of Hospice when someone close to us, or we ourselves, get sick, or old, and face death.
Paul Allan wants to make sure people know about the Dundas County Hospice. He lost his wife in February, 2020. It was fast, sudden, shocking, and numbing. He didn’t expect to have to navigate this road for a long time yet. He is very grateful that the Hospice called him. A nurse from the LINH (Champlain Local Health Integration Network) referred him. The Hospice then did so very much for his family. Equipment and information packages were delivered to the home, which meant that the family did not have to go collect those things. It was one less thing for Paul to have to worry about. The hospice knew what was needed.
He didn’t have to try to figure it all out, on top of everything else that was happening. They had answers to questions that Paul didn’t need to ask. They removed some of the stress. The work the hospice did behind the scenes allowed Paul to focus on his wife and family. When talking to Paul, you get the feeling that he’s slightly amazed that the hospice found him and jumped into service. That the fact that they are out there, doing what they do, and that their work crossed his family’s path, is just a bit of very good fortune in an otherwise hellish time.
Paul believes we are very fortunate to have such a comprehensive, helpful resource so close to home. He, like many of us, knew the Hospice was out there, but really had no idea what services and assistance they offered to families in shock and crisis. People think that “they don’t need to know about that right now.” Paul says that people don’t realise what an amazing resource they have so close to home.
Dundas County Hospice is a non-profit organization. 55% of funding comes from the Ministry of Health through the Champlain LHIN. The other 45% is funded through donations, support from local service groups, grants, and fundraising. This tally does not include the many hours given to the clients and their families by trained hospice volunteers. Donations often include In Memoriam bequests, but the Hospice relies on donations from the community at large as well. 100% of money raised through fundraising and donations stays in Dundas County. Please consider donating to the Dundas County Hospice (https://dundascountyhospice.ca/) when you are giving this holiday season.