Hospice: Never alone at the end

Volunteers make end of life more comforting for Sooke clients

Sooke Hospice is there to care for the dying.

For years the dream of the Sooke Hospice Society was to have their own free-standing hospice. Then three years ago the estate of John Oliver gave the society a real home.

With the acquisition of the spacious house on Goodmere Road in Sooke, the society can now expand their work. What they do is aid and comfort people in the most sensitive time of their lives  by providing palliative care for the dying.

It is not a subject many people are comfortable with, but it is a fact of life and those who volunteer provide an invaluable service to the client as well as the family.

“It’s such a difficult time of life,” said Pat Brooks, president of the Sooke Hospice Society. “You are in a whole different space in your life and the volunteers support people where they’re at and treat them with dignity.”

Volunteers go to the client’s home or the hospital and will be with them for the last years/months/weeks/days, so they are not alone. Each case is different and the volunteer may read to the client, help with basic body mechanics, provide simple massage or just sit and listen.

“Listening is a big part of the training,” said Brooks. “They don’t give advice or tell them what to do, they learn to ask questions.”

The hospice volunteers are just one part of the team dealing with each client. There is usually a family doctor and care service workers helping coordinate the client care. Counselling is provided to family members as well as the client.

It’s a much-needed and appreciated service and the society is seeking new volunteers who may want to help people in this way.  The time spent by volunteers with someone in the last stages of their life is dependent on what time they can afford. Brooks said it can be two hours a week  or an hour three times a week or even more.

“It depends on how much need there is and how much time a volunteer has – but you have to be committed.”

She said they will not leave people alone.

“It’s so individualized. Hospice isn’t a place you go to, it’s a philosophy. It’s helping people. It’s very unique, it really is. What you get out of this is really remarkable.”

Brooks notes that hospice volunteers are not nurses, they do not deal with any medical issues.

“We have people who have been through a loss, ex-nurses, care aides and kind people,” she said of the types of volunteers they get.

“Most end of life is very peaceful – the doctor’s goal is to keep them comfortable. The doctors are trained too.”

Many people at the end of their lives, said Brooks, want to be at home with their cat or dog, the old grandfather clock, the things that are familiar to them and the focus of hospice is to keep them at home.

“We try to satisfy everything that we can if they want to be in their own home, but sometimes it is not medically possible.”

Hospice does supply some medical equipment.

Sooke Hospice is supported in part by a grant from the gaming commission, various grants from VIHA, service clubs and generous donations. They hold three fundraisers a year: Celebrate a Life at Christmas, Plant a Memory in the spring and a craft and bake sale at the house. They also receive funds from Buffy’s poker night and the Friday night meat draws.

Now that the society has the house on Goodmere, they would to be able to provide respite care for care givers and possibly a place for someone from out of town.

Sooke Hospice cares for approximately 10-15 clients per month and they call for volunteers once a year.

“It’s not doom and gloom,” said Brooks. “It’s about being respectful of where they’re at – it’s about acceptance.”

For those who may be interested there is no cost to join and about 30 hours of training is provided – mostly in the evenings.

“You have to be committed and you may not know if you can do it until you come out and find out about it.”

For more information, call 250-642-4345.