Susan Gamble, The Brantford Expositor
Published on: May 4, 2020
The physical distancing requirements aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19 have meant changes in how people can say goodbye to their loved ones at the Stedman Community Hospice,
“Our rules have changed but our overall objective is still the same – to ensure the best possible hospice experience for the patient, family and their visitors,” said executive director Elaine Calvert.
She said patients and their family members understand the new guidelines before admission.
“Everyone is provided with the information prior to an admission decision so they can understand the rules before they come. We make sure there’s a full awareness.”
The biggest change is that the hospice, with few exceptions, permits only one designated family member to be with a patient during the admission phase and one family member at a time when death is imminent. It’s similar to rules at Brantford General Hospital, where visitors are barred except for specific compassionate grounds to see dying patients.
But the design of the hospice’s Hankinson House, which opened in 2014, makes it accessible for “window visits,” said Calvert. Each of the 10 rooms that house patients has a large low window.
“They’re very popular and we are so fortunate to have a building that can accommodate privacy.”
A large deck soon will accommodate outdoors visits, too.
Hankinson House also is outfitted with technology that allows people to visit using FaceTime and Skype. And staff is on hand to support phone calls and virtual visits.
“We’re seeing every kind of device and all kinds of virtual presence you can imagine,” Calvert said. “Sometimes it even means combining a phone call with a window visit.”
Such visits are planned and co-ordinated with the staff.
“We’ve had to get very creative,” said Calvert.
“These are such unusual times but I could not be more proud of our staff. The level of co-ordination and commitment they demonstrate each day to ensure the patients and their families are supported is amazing.”
All visitors to the hospice are screened and staff wear masks and follow physical distancing guidelines set by the province.
Calvert said the hospice misses its volunteers who helped in the kitchen and with maintaining gardens.
“They are such an important part of the team and we very much look forward to welcoming them back.”
Despite the new rules, no one has turned down admission to Hankinson House, said David Wormald, president of the St. Joseph’s Lifecare Centre, which runs the hospice, along with the adjacent long-term care residence..
There have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in residents of either the hospice or at long-term residence.
A COVID-19 outbreak was declared at St. Joseph’s on April 2 after a staff member at the long-term residence tested positive for the virus. That outbreak was declared over on April 12 but a second staff member tested positive April 23. But subsequent extensive testing has yielded no further positive results.
“We took a very proactive approach early on and our staff is absolutely dedicated to our hospice and long-term residents,” said Wormald. “They’re showing such commitment and living our mission of compassion, courage and care.”
He said St. Joseph’s considers it essential to protect its staff, residents and their family members.
“These are quite extraordinary times but we continue to be vigilant.”
Sunday was to be date for the 16th annual Hike for Hospice, which has been postponed due to the virus. The hospice has an annual operating budget of about $3 million, with about half funded by community donations through the St. Joseph’s Lifecare Foundation. Last year’s hike brought in just over $338,000.
The hike was also meant to mark the official retirement of Olga Consorti from the president and CEO role she has held with the foundation for the past 30 years. She has agreed to stay in the role until at least the end of June.
The Brantford Expositor
By: Susan Gamble
News: March 20, 2020
Bill Johnston reaches out to connect to his wife Betty through the window at St. Joseph’s Lifecare Centre where recreational therapists have made an area available for seniors to see and chat by phone with their families. Johnston owned and operated the Burford Times for 30 years.
While COVID-19 is wreaking havoc on visits and work schedules at area nursing homes, St. Joseph’s Lifecare is working to ensure both patients and visitors feel supported.
“There’s been a lot of creativity being used,” said David Wormald, president of the Lifecare Centre which is now restricting visitors in almost all cases.
“It’s heartbreaking to have this lock-down in place but we know it’s in the best interests of our residents, staff and those in the community. So, meanwhile, our staff is working to engage with residents and family to connect them.”
Nancy Billard, who handles communications for the facility, said window visits are just part of ‘Project Feel Good’, implemented to help support staff and residents through the pandemic.
“We can’t give hugs but we’re saying however you can make someone feel good in lieu of that – a smile, thumbs up, wave or positive comment – will help.”
Billard said there was some unease among the residents over the first few days of changes but a “feeling of calmness” has settled on the building and is making it’s way from staff to the seniors.
“We’ve maintained 100 percent staffing levels since this started and people have even returned from stay-at-home vacations to help out. It’s been amazing and I have to retreat to my office and get my tissues out two or three times a day.”
Along with scheduling time and providing a phone at the ground-floor window, staff is also working to arrange Skype, Facetime or video-conferencing for the families.
And, all the positive comments that pour in on the St. Joseph’s Facebook page are being printed out as posters and hung around the facility so workers can see how much they are appreciated.
The appreciation flows both ways: Billard said John Ansell from The Keg Steakhouse and Bar donated multiple cases of fresh produce to the Stedman Hospice adjacent to the Lifecare Centre this week as the restaurant closed its doors Tuesday.
“We are incredibly thankful to have received this generous gift,” Billard said, adding that anything the hospice couldn’t use went to the Brantford Food Bank which is experiencing a higher demand for help.
“Our staff is certainly finding it difficult but people are really coming together,” said Wormald.
“I am immensely proud of and applaud the compassionate care and courage of our staff and physicians. They mobilized to support each other and keep our residents and community safe.”