Dying is a normal part of living, but death is still something many people don’t want to talk about.
So said Janet Shaw, president of Desert Valley Hospice Society during a recent presentation to Oliver council.
She outlined the strategic future of the society and its fundraising efforts to build a free-standing hospice house. She noted that a needs assessment indicates the requirement for six hospice beds now, with that number increasing to 10 in the next 15 years.
Shaw said it would cost about $800,000 per year to operate a six-bed facility (based on $375 per bed per day).
“We desperately need operating funds before we can achieve a stand-alone facility.”
The needs assessment also identified the following: lack of leadership from Interior Health; care services do not meet community needs; training is lacking for all care providers; visible minorities are not engaged; and the small number of trained hospice volunteers are under-utilized. It is important to note that the assessment findings were accepted without qualification by Interior Health.
In creating a stand-alone facility, the society has to create a business case, secure multi-year funding from Interior Health, establish capital expenditures for construction, purchase equipment and furnishings, determine facility governance, hire and train management and hire staff.
Councillor Jack Bennest said there are facilities in this area that could be used as a stand-alone facility. He then asked Shaw about providing hospice beds in both communities (Oliver and Osoyoos). With public support, the society could look at a cluster of beds in both towns, Shaw said.
Shaw said the society has 28 active volunteers, and has just trained eight new ones. (The training program is 36 hours long.)
She noted volunteers do much more than sit at the client’s bedside. They provide respite care for families, grief and bereavement support, practical assistance, and spiritual support.
For more information, call volunteer coordinator Kimberly Hutton at 250-498-5026.
The society has developed a new program called “Tuck In” to provide more support to people at home prior to the weekend.
Mayor Ron Hovanes said what hospice volunteers do is “truly charitable.”
Shaw presented some statistics, saying nine out of 10 people will require end-of-life care before death, and only one in 10 people will die a quick death. She said most deaths occur from chronic health conditions, whereas 60 per cent of British Columbians die in hospital. “But most people prefer to die at home with friends and family,” she pointed out.
According to a 2011 parliamentary committee report on palliative care, Canada falls short of quality end-of-life, with only 16-30 per cent of those who need it receiving palliative care.
Shaw said society has placed such a strong emphasis on material values that dying has become so isolated from daily life.
But Desert Valley and its volunteers make a big difference in people’s lives by following a philosophy of care – “to relieve suffering and improve the quality of living and dying by helping people with life-threatening and terminal illnesses live as comfortably and fully as possible.”
In today’s society, elders rarely die at home, and people depend utterly on experts during illness, Shaw said. In addition, there is a current crisis in spiritual direction, she noted.
“Most adults have not seen anyone die at home and this is one reason why death appears to be something foreign.”
As our population ages, the need for and access to quality end-of-life care is a critical priority, Shaw said.
Precedence throughout the Interior Health service area indicates it has provided operating funds for all of the hospice homes currently providing care.
“At this time we have no indication from Interior Health that they are willing to discuss funding a stand-alone hospice house or providing more hospice beds in existing facilities,” Shaw said.
As a result, the society is reluctant to proceed with preparing a comprehensive and very costly business case, she noted.
Shaw said despite slow progress in obtaining dedicated hospice beds, the society remains committed to its vision to support excellence in the delivery of end of life care.
“Not only will the society continue to advocate for the provision of six hospice beds, it will continue in its efforts developing and delivering volunteer hospice programs to support individuals requiring end of life care and their families.”