Hospice team in Comox Valley honoured with award

THE COMOX VALLEY End of Life Resource Team, from left: Christy Linder, Terri Odeneal, Barb Warren, Lori Novelli, Linda Davidson and Necia Kaechele, won the Dr. Michael Downing Research Award. - Photo submitted
THE COMOX VALLEY End of Life Resource Team, from left: Christy Linder, Terri Odeneal, Barb Warren, Lori Novelli, Linda Davidson and Necia Kaechele, won the Dr. Michael Downing Research Award.
— image credit: Photo submitted

The Comox Valley Hospice Society was recently honoured with the Dr. Michael Downing Research Award at the BC Hospice Palliative Care Association annual conference.

The society collaborated with the Comox Valley End of Life Resource Team — a group of care providers working to enhance care in the community — with a mission to assess the awareness and status of hospice palliative care for people in the Valley. The group conducted two Internet surveys — one for the public and one for health-care professionals — along with another targeted to physicians. Results validated concerns highlighting gaps in access and care.

Bottom line: Where you live should not determine the quality of end-of-life care one receives.

"I think we're all concerned that everyone across the province has equal access to end-of-life care," CVHS executive director Terri Odeneal said. "That means looking at every community and making sure that appropriate resources are in place."

The society has been providing care to those who are palliative and bereaved for nearly three decades. Support from individuals and businesses has been essential to making these services possible.

"It's one of those that, by its very nature, needs to be delivered close to home," Odeneal said. "When someone is in their last weeks, it's only appropriate that they have their family and loved ones around them. And certainly hospice works very hard to support people who are dying in their homes. It just becomes a matter of when people reach a certain stage, oftentimes they just can't be supported at home."

There are no designated hospice palliative care beds in the Valley. Home and Community Care provides four hours of daily support for people still living at home.

"That places a tremendous responsibility on family and friends to cover the other 20 hours a day," Odeneal said. "There's really no alternative but for folks to go into acute care, which really is not an appropriate setting."

Last September marked a change to the laws surrounding advanced care directives. A new package came out for advanced care planning, a process whereby a person designates a health-care decision maker in the event her or she cannot act on their own behalf. The society is working with its volunteers to engage residents to learn about advanced care directives, and how that can be part of the planning process.

"Oftentimes families have a hard time making those decisions. So that's starting the discussion," Odeneal said.

Hospice provides volunteers at homes, hospitals and long-term care facilities. With just 3.5 FTEs, the society functions almost entirely with the help of almost 150 volunteers.

"This is an incredible community in terms of its desire to make the community a better place to live, and what people are willing to give," Odeneal said, noting the society does not receive core funding from the health authority. "We are always raising funds."

Hot Chocolates has partnered with the society to produce chocolate bars. Boxes of 24 bars are available by calling the society at 250-339-5533, or can be individually purchased for a $5 donation.

Last week, the comedy/musical team of Kenny Shaw and Brian Temple raised about $500 for hospice in a performance at the 1st Tuesday Fundraiser at the Mex Pub.

In addition, a portion of sales from artist Bev Byerley's show which ended Wednesday at Whyte's Framing & Gallery will benefit the society.

Another fundraiser — Solstice in the Sky Garden — is scheduled for Thursday evening at the Berwick Rooftop Garden & Lounge in Comox. It is sold out.

"Diversity is the name of the game," Odeneal said. "We're very fortunate to have so many different businesses and individuals who are willing to take the time and energy to support the work that we do here in the community. It's really amazing the creativity that comes together for us."

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