By 2046, 4.6 million Ontarians will be aged 85 and older. Currently, the province has fewer than 500 hospice beds and 4,000 hospital palliative care beds available.
North Bay’s Near North Palliative Care Network is a non-profit Visiting Hospice that serves the Nipissing and east Parry Sound region. Their trained volunteers provide comfort and care to people with life-limiting illnesses in their own homes. Hospice Coordinator, Scott Gardiner says, “Our volunteers provide services such as palliative support, grief and bereavement support, caregiver respite and adult day programs such as yoga classes and art workshops, and our new music therapy program.” All services are free of charge.
The difference between a residential and visiting hospice
Many of us are familiar with a residential hospice which provides care to people in the final days of their lives. A visiting hospice such as NNPCN has a network of volunteers who travel to the patient’s home offering care and compassion or whatever the client may need, including light housekeeping, meal prep or advocating for support. Volunteers are not permitted to provide medical services.
NNPCN served over 4400 clients in the last fiscal year. Gardiner says, “NNPCN is an essential service to an aging population as well as a life-fulfilling volunteer opportunity. NNPCN will accommodate anyone who wants to volunteer by connecting them with community services that fit their needs and passions.”
Need for volunteers
NNPCN provides training to prospective volunteers in three key areas:
- Bereavement and grief training
- Hospice Palliative Care Ontario training and
- NavCare training to help clients find needed services and support
Volunteers do not need PSW training although that would be a bonus. Gardiner says, “We provide training to our volunteers and anyone who is interested in training even if they don’t become a NNPCN volunteer. We want to train as many people in our community as possible so that if the need arises, they can help their family, friends, and neighbours.”
Currently, NNPCN has around 130 active service volunteers, but more volunteers are needed. Their value to the community is immeasurable. They help ease the strain on the health care system while also easing the strain on individual caregivers.
Gardiner points out, “If we can train as many people in our catchment area as possible that will reduce emergency room visits, it will reduce hospital stays and make it possible for aging clients to stay in their home longer. Who among us does not want to stay at home as long as possible?”
Being a visiting hospice volunteer is rewarding. Volunteers provide empathy, companionship, and layers for support to patients and families during difficult times. The volunteers receive certifications and enjoy volunteer get togethers.
Need for funding
NNPCN receives a small amount of funding each year from the provincial government to pay for a couple of staff positions. Other salaries are supported through grants. Gardiner says, “We’re always on a tightrope as our grants our coming to an end because we don’t know if we’ll receive another grant to keep our positions going.”
NNPCN depends heavily on the generosity of the community for support. Their biggest annual fundraising event is the “Butterfly Release” in July. Gardiner says, “People can purchase live butterflies in honour of loved ones who have passed. The butterflies are released on the waterfront.
It’s really an amazing sight that is very moving.”
Their 50/50 raffle is coming up. The early bird draw is April 1st while the main draw follows on May 1st. The winner will receive a still undetermined cash jackpot. The digital raffle can be accessed online here.