Salt Spring Hospice improves quality of life

Free support offered to community

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With National Hospice Week drawing to a close on Saturday, now is a good time to get acquainted with the local island organization that works to provide improved end-of-life experiences.

Having no physical facility of its own, Salt Spring Hospice describes a set of services rather than a location. Its volunteer members and board are perhaps most recognized for their work sitting vigil with those who are dying. But they offer much more than that decidedly valued gift.

“I think the most important thing to understand overall is hospice is really a philosophy of care. It’s really about making the end of life as worthwhile as the rest,” explained Lisa Dahling, who co-chairs the society’s board of directors.

Salt Spring Hospice volunteers are trained to provincial standards to help people deal with end-of-life. They support the people who are dying and their loved ones by sharing time at bedside vigils during the final days, whether that’s at the hospital or another location. These services are available for any age group, including children, and are not limited to any one kind of illness.

Services that extend after a death include annual group sessions for grieving people, and one-on-one support. Another priority is to update and strengthen organizational aspects to ensure long-term sustainability.

The other members of the new board are equally enthusiastic. They include secretary Sue Walker, treasurer Paul Roberts, Richard Stetson (partnership development director), Andrea Pixley (organization strengthening director) and Genevieve Martini (director for membership development).

Roberts is the sole continuing director from the previous cohort, but Walker, Dahling and Martini all have years of experience as hospice volunteers and bring a special perspective to the role. Pixley is a care aide at Greenwoods and Oliphant retired as executive director of the eldercare facility last year. Stetson retired as the Anglican parish minister in 2017. Together they have an interconnected history of working with people who are facing life’s end, and their goal is to continue developing partnerships to foster the wider perspective.

A policy shift from Island Health that seeks to take dying out of the hospital and move it back into the home is another probable change. Martini observed that although dying was medicalized and institutionalized just a few generations ago, bringing it back to the home will require a significant learning period; the associated societal and cultural skills have largely been lost.

“A great number of people choose to retire here but they haven’t brought their children to retire with them,” said Dahling’s co-chair Paul Oliphant.

For more on this story, see the May 15, 2019 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.

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