It seems like just yesterday when we were preparing to open the doors of our community’s first residential hospice but nearly a year has gone by and in reflecting on our first year, there are many life lessons we have learned.
As this article was prepared, Chatham-Kent Hospice has served over 195 families from across Chatham-Kent but facts and statistics don’t demonstrate the true impact to our community; the impact on hospice residents and families, or on our staff and volunteers. We have received wonderful feedback from our hospice families that prove we are making a difference in their lives as they say goodbye to their loved one but what are the lessons learned by staff and volunteers as they walk alongside families in their journey?
Every Day Counts!
This is something that we often don’t give much thought to when we are well but at Hospice, it is a priority. Over the past year, our staff and volunteers have helped organize many events such as wedding receptions, birthday parties, graduation parties, and other family celebrations. We have also learned that these events do not have to be elaborate to be significant. A family movie or games night, family dinners, music therapy session, spa baths or family visits all help people develop warm memories that will sustain them through their grief journey.
Small Gestures make a Big Impact
Our staff and volunteers have all received specialized training in palliative and end-of-life care but it’s their generous hearts that make them the best at what they do. They are honoured to share this journey with families and this means showing kindness at every opportunity. A small gesture like encouraging family to get some rest or nourishment, listening to the family’s needs, answering questions every step of the way, or giving hugs when needed, these are all simple gestures that help residents and families know they are cared for and not alone.
Support for Families is Important
When a resident and their family come to Hospice, they have often been caring for their loved one for weeks, months, or even years. Caregivers are tired and stress levels can, understandably, be very high. The first priority is to ensure the resident is comfortable but support of the family is also given priority. With the ability to get much needed rest and the opportunity to have meaningful conversations, often guided by our Spiritual Care Coordinator and other staff, stress levels are reduced, relationships are strengthened or healed, and people feel supported as they say good bye.
When You Give, You often Get More in Return
As noted, we have over 220 volunteers who have given over 10,000 hours of time since we opened last year. Why do they continue to give? Because they get so much more in return.
Our volunteers tell us that they are rewarded with knowing they have made the day better for someone who might be living their last day or for their family; they are able to share skills they’ve honed over the years in a way that makes a difference; volunteering gives them a purpose outside of themselves which leaves them feeling fulfilled.
We see the same level of generosity in our donors – individuals, groups, and organizations who support the work of Chatham-Kent Hospice so residents and families can access care, at no cost. In Chatham-Kent, we have seen the interest and willingness to support our friends and neighbours when facing end of life and, for the staff and volunteers involved in the daily care, it is truly heartwarming!
As we enter our second year of operation, we look forward to learning more lessons, serving more families, and becoming better at what we do every single day. To everyone who has supported Chatham-Kent Hospice in any way –