A shocking statistic came to my attention the other day and left me wondering how we ever came to be in this situation. There are only a mere twenty (20) residential hospice beds in the Greater Toronto Area to serve nearly three million people. Those of us who have already struggled with trying to place family members in hospice facilities are familiar with this deplorable shortage of appropriate care facilities but others may not be and it’s time someone got the attention of our government leaders to rectify the situation.
For anyone who has visited family or a loved one in hospice care, the difference from hospitals is significant. Hospice facilities are operated predominantly by volunteers who oversee an atmosphere of warm, home-like care during residents’ final hours or days. The scarcity of hospice facilities means that I have personally only been in one. It was designed on one level like a cottage. It contained six large, quiet resident/patient rooms, a solarium, a family dining room, livingroom and open kitchen that continually smelled of warm cookies or muffins baked by volunteers. There was none of the hustle, noise or clinical atmosphere inherent in large medical hospitals. It was a place of peace and quiet, comfort and love. Parking on the hospice site was convenient and free because the facility was not in a high-priced downtown location but on the edge of town where real estate was affordable and away from the bustle of the city.
The residents’ rooms were cheerfully decorated to resemble a home environment with a door opening to an outside patio with trees, flowers and a bird feeder for those who were able to enjoy the scents and sounds of nature. We were able to wheel our friend’s bed into the solarium so we could all share burgers and fries for lunch one day. Another day, we wheeled his bed on to the outside porch where a student volunteer played a few sixties tunes she knew on her guitar while we all sang along. The patient rooms included comfortable LaZboy chairs suitable for family members to grab a much-needed nap during their vigil. The floors were hardwood, lighting soft and the atmosphere homey, infinitely more conducive to residents’ and visitors’ comfort than the institutional nature of hospitals. Nurses were constantly on duty to provide comfort and care while a doctor would oversee pain management. Along with friends who visited, we donated money and supplies (disposable plates and cups, paper towels, straws and other essentials) whenever we visited. Volunteerism and donations are an integral part of the hospice program.
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