HOSPICE PROVIDES A HOME AWAY FROM HOME: New support for end-of-life residents in York Region

Most people don’t understand the services hospice provides until they need to rely on them for their own family members. When faced with the unthinkable, and forced to deal with “end of life” issues, a hospice provides the necessary medical and social support while still maintaining a home-like environment.

But without facilities like Margaret Bahen Hospice—a 10-bed residential hospice located on Queen Street in the heart of Newmarket—terminally-ill patients are forced to choose between spending their final days in hospital, where they may not need medical interventions, or at home, unsupported.

“People think the hospice is a really sad place; it’s actually full of joy,” explains Sonya Murray, Executive Director at Margaret Bahen Hospice. “It’s [a place for] celebrating relationships, [for] celebrating the individual and their wishes and desires. It’s very different than what some people might expect.”

Recognizing how necessary these types of services are for the healthcare system, Southlake Regional Health Centre began raising the capital funds needed to bring the vision for Margaret Bahen Hospice to life. Operated by Better Living Health and Community Services, the residential hospice officially opened its doors to palliative care residents and their families in November, 2017. Here, they are supported by nursing and care staff 24-hours per day, in addition to social work services, spiritual support, medical care, pharmacy, complimentary therapies and referral to other programs and services.

The hospice is currently looking to fill its roster of 150 volunteers. Community members can donate their time to the kitchen, reception, maintenance and various other companionship roles. “The only funding we receive is for the clinical care; for everything else we rely on donations,” Murray says. “So it’s really important that we lean heavily on volunteers to help us run these services.”



Rob Green, a kitchen volunteer at Margaret Bahen Hospice, felt inspired to give back to his community after personally experiencing hospice services with his mother. “For someone going through a horrible experience, if you can make it a little better for them, that’s what it’s all about,” says Green. “If you can make it a little easier, and help them be comfortable in a difficult situation, it’s very rewarding.”

Of course, monetary contributions also go a long way. All costs for administration, building operations/repairs and support staff at Margaret Bahen Hospice must be provided by the organization through fundraising efforts. This means they need to raise approximately $700,000 a year in charitable donations. The hospice is currently taking donations for its “Help Make Our House a Home” campaign, which is dedicated to providing furnishings and comfort items that make the rooms feel as home-like as possible.

Residents are also encouraged to bring in their own familiar belongings. One gentleman chose to bring his electric keyboard to his room, and he even performed in a few jam sessions with the hospice’s spiritual care co-ordinator, who plays guitar.

“There are many, many stories here,” says Murray. She recalls another gentleman who wasn’t even at the hospice for a full day. But he was provided an individual room, and surrounded by a support team, so he could live out his final hours in comfort and peace. His wife expressed that it was the best night they’d had in months.



“It’s really a family environment,” Murray explains. “It affords the caregivers the ability to resume their roles. The wife who is looking after her husband and also worrying about managing the household and ordering medicines can come here and [rest assured] we’ll take care of some of that. And she can just be a wife.”

The staff at Margaret Bahen Hospice aim to do everything they can to make the residents and their families feel supported and cared for. “It’s a privilege to be allowed to be a part of all of this,” says Murray, “because they really do invite us into their lives.”

If you or someone you love suffers from a life-threatening illness, the team at Margaret Bahen Hospice encourages you to visit the bed registry. Volunteers are also welcome, and donations are always needed. You can also join the National Hike for Hospice on Sunday May 6, 2018 at Fairy Lake. Find more information at www.myhospice.ca




Local Links

Margaret Bahen Hospice

Southlake Regional Health Centre

Better Living

Doane House Hospice

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