Hospice services to make a difference in Madawaska Valley

MADAWASKA VALLEY – On March 26, the Board of the Madawaska Valley Palliative Care officially launched their palliative care support services program at the Barry’s Bay Senior Centre.

Community members, hospice staff, volunteers, and hospice-partnered members from various organizations, hospitals and businesses gathered to celebrate the launch, volunteers, partnerships made and the milestones accomplished.
Palliative Care Co-ordinator and registered nurse, Karen Wagner kicked things off with an in-depth presentation explaining exactly what hospice volunteers do, how the support services can help individuals, families and communities, and how people can access services. In summary, the official launching at the senior’s centre stood to inform individuals.
However, the launching was also an opportunity to thank the organizations involved, as well as the volunteers who have so generously donated their time, Wagner went on to say.
Currently, the program has 49 trained volunteers, 21 of which have been working with the community and hospital since December 26, 2012, Wagner said. To date, volunteers have already put in more than 230 hours.
“Community members are already directly benefiting from our services,” she said.
Several other volunteers, physicians, Champlain Regional Hospice Palliative Care staff, and staff from the Madawaska Valley Community Circle of Health, to name a few, were also in attendance.
However, all spokespersons agreed – hospice services and volunteers stand to help improve a person’s quality of life in their last few days through offering compassion and caring.
“We hope to help those passing, pass with dignity and comfort,” Wagner explained. “Through compassionate high-quality palliative care, volunteers relieve suffering.”
Hospice volunteers and staff offer a specialized knowledge of medical care and address all symptoms of a disease, with special emphasis on controlling a person’s pain and discomfort.
Just as important, however, it’s also about offering flexible patient-centred care, the co-ordinator said. So, in other words, if a patient wishes to pass at home, hospice volunteers can help to make that happen comfortably, Wagner added.
Alongside offering comfort and pain management, hospice volunteers can offer individuals and families a broad range of services and aid.
Whether a person needs help in and out of bed, help with meals, or families need assistance with funeral arrangements – volunteers are jacks-of-all-trades, Wagner told those at the launch. Hospice volunteers also take patients to doctors’ appointments, offer a hand to hold, and listen to concerns, Wagner elaborated.
“It’s a unique relationship volunteers and patients form…” she said.
Similarly, to other hospice programs, volunteers aim to help individuals with an array of practical tasks. But volunteers also aim to help individuals, emotionally, physically, socially, and spiritually.
Services are free for those who meet the criteria. A physician’s referral is not necessary either.
Families can contact hospice at any point when they require aid or information through illness, death and bereavement, Wager said. Ideally, however, volunteers aim to help patients as early on as possible after a diagnosis of a terminal or incurable illness.
The organization also offers support and education for families, health care professionals and the community at large, Wager added. Those in attendance at the launch all encouraged people to request information specifically in regards to advanced care medical planning.
All in all, hospice caretakers help to create a plan for people, this plan and aid from volunteers helps individuals live as fully as they can for their time remaining, Wager said.
What’s more, it’s an honour to care for our most vulnerable and those in their last days and hours, volunteer, Bev Swjeski added.
Story continues in the April 3, 2013 issue of The Valley Gazette.