My association with the Alberni Valley Hospice Society began about three years ago when my husband’s diagnosis placed him under the care of Dr. Wendy Johnson, the palliative care doctor for the Alberni Valley. I was still working two days a week at the office of MP Lunney and could continue because of the home community care team. Home care workers, nurses and Dr. Johnson came to visit Ben regularly and, on my work days, hospice volunteers came to our home and played crib with Ben, becoming fast friends. However, as Ben’s disease progressed, it became increasingly difficult for him to remain at home.
After a tour of Ty Watson House, Ben moved here in March of 2014. The day before he moved, he went around our house and left messages: one in the dishwasher said, ‘See, I can do this’; one on my pillow said, ‘It’s time for me to go’; another said, ‘It won’t be so hard on you now.’ I was exhausted. Ben needed more care than I could give him and he, ever the calm, gentle realist, was ready for a new phase in his dying process. We were both ready… we had had a long time to prepare for this step.
Ben was not here long when we started to appreciate just what a caring place this is. At first, Ben wanted to come home for dinners and watch a hockey game. As time passed, he’d come to our house but he soon wanted to get back to Ty Watson House… it was his home. He felt loved, he felt safe… he missed the staff when he wasn’t here. It was an adjustment for me but I realized that his being here allowed me the energy to carry on… I was in a healthier place and Ben was truly happy. I spent as much time here as I possibly could… that is one of the great benefits of Ty Watson House - family is welcome to make it their second home, too.
As I began to understand what Hospice is… what it can offer families, I felt that I must be part of this! I did what I could to help out while Ben was here but, with his passing, I wanted to continue my involvement in a meaningful way. I wanted to become a formal volunteer. Asked to sit on the Board of Directors… I was thrilled and my education of the Av Hospice Society took a huge leap forward. I learned just how complicated and unique our particular model is - the only hospice on the Island to have a
stand-alone care facility. We are the only one in Canada, I believe, in which the Hospice Society teams with the Health Authority to run the home. I came to understand what a great partnership exists between the AV Hospice Society and VIHA.
Appreciation for this community grew, too, because the money needed to run Ty Watson and keep all the other hospice programs going comes mainly from the private citizens, businesses and organizations of this valley. The government doesn’t give us money to run our programs. That amazes me! I have lived in many communities but this one truly is unique.
I also gained a fuller appreciation for the extent of the programs that we offer the community beyond Ty Watson House – free courses in Advanced Care Planning; free bereavement counselling, available to anyone in the community; Reiki and Healing Touch services; pastoral care; the Reflections Program…
I came to understand just how important the volunteers are to our organization. The AV Hospice Society simply could not function without them. The kind of person who takes the volunteer training is the kind of person who needs to be here – a person with passion and compassion. Many of our volunteers have been here for years, going back long before Ty Watson House opened. We’ve just trained a new slate of volunteers and the ones who have chosen to work here in the kitchen are being mentored by the experienced volunteers, which is working extremely well as they shadow the experienced volunteer until they are ready to fly on their own.
When the position of House Manager was presented to me recently, it was just what I needed… it brought me full circle.
I wanted to be here, to be part of this grand team of dedicated Hospice workers and the equally dedicated VIHA staff. The ideal way to keep working and to give back at the same time, I’ve found my professional home.