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Carpenter Hospice supports 'living well' with a life-limiting illness

Free workshop to be held on March 28 as part of their education series

Carpenter Hospice, which opened its doors in 2002, is nestled in a park-like setting in a quiet Burlington neighbourhood. When it opened, it was one of only eight in the province of Ontario. It is a home away from home for those diagnosed with a life-limiting illness, their families, and their caregivers.

Hospice palliative care is about living well with a life-limiting illness. The primary care focus for clients is symptom management. Their specialized team helps clients navigate their journey, provides guidance and support, and, most importantly, takes the time to understand their needs and wishes. Executive Director Kim Pearson shared, "We see our role broadly working and supporting people living with a progressive, life-limiting illness and their caregivers, family members and friends. We take enormous pride in providing wrap-around care.'

The Angelo & Darlene Paletta Care Wing features 11 beds in private rooms, with patios backing onto a lovely garden and forested area. A care team is on-site 24/7 to ensure everyone is peaceful and comfortable. The kitchen provides freshly cooked meals and snacks for families and friends visiting the Hospice. The McKeil Family Centre for Community Care features a great room, counselling and meeting rooms, and a reflection room.

They take a holistic approach to care, attending to individuals' physical, psychological, social, and spiritual care needs. Pearson says, "The service we provide is essential. Our residents benefit from music therapy, reiki, other complementary therapies, volunteer support, and companionship. We also support individuals and families through our community and wellness programs and grief and bereavement services. These essential supports are offered to ensure that everyone feels well supported and cared for."

"We work with individuals with whatever legacy approach and journey they wish to take. Our team supports legacy work with our clients, which may include writing a song with our music therapist, creating a photo album of memorable moments, collecting stories, or hosting a celebration or dinner of close friends and family at the Hospice," she said.

"To ensure our services are free of cost, we annually raise funds to provide home-cooked meals for our residents, counselling and wellness programs, ongoing upkeep of our facilities, and more. We also rely on an enthusiastic and dedicated group of volunteers who are integral to our hospice team. We receive annual funding from the Ministry of Health, but more is needed to cover the breadth of services required to support the palliative care needs of individuals and their families," she said.

Carpenter Hospice has a long history, dating back to 1999, when it started fundraising. "The four Rotary Clubs of Burlington established the Rotary Community Hospice Project, and resident Lee Carpenter donated $500,000 to the cause. He had lived quietly without recognition for 47 years. The 79-year-old said his experience with a hospice in California made him realize the importance of palliative and end-of-life supports and services," said Pearson.

At that point, the project focused on finding a home, and the St. Stephen United Church offered a 100-year lease on the property adjacent to its parking lot for a '$1 and a rose' payment per year.

The Board approved a capital campaign in 2018, and the Hospice expanded in June 2020. That was followed by the expansion of community programs and services, achieved through the $1.5 million Bridge of Care Matching Campaign.

"We began in November 2021, and Blair and Kathy McNeil saw the need for a community care centre for individuals diagnosed with a life-limiting illness and support for families. Together with the support of Henry and Grace Hildebrand, The McKeil Family Centre for Community Care was able to open in June 2022," she said.

The Hospice recently partnered with the Burlington Public Library to host an education series on important topics for caregivers. "We want to ensure we serve our community and provide accessible programs. The library serves as a local hub where people congregate naturally, and many barriers to access are removed. The library also communicates with the broader community, offering an increased profile for the Hospice with audiences we might not otherwise reach", Pearson said.

The workshops, facilitated by healthcare professionals and provided at no cost, will be held at the Central Branch on March 21 and March 28. Topics to be covered include caregiver fatigue, caregiver self-care, advanced care planning, and how to talk to teens and children about dying, death and loss.

To learn more about the sessions, please visit The Carpenter Hospice website.

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