Founders of Matthews House Hospice in Alliston, Sally and Frank Taylor will always remember their many wonderful years of service after retiring from the palliative care industry just last year.
It all started in the Taylor’s home 18 years ago with a palliative support group called “Circle of Friends”, with meetings held in their living room. During that time, the couple were caring for Sally’s mother, Ruth MacCarl, in their home, until she passed away in April 2002.
Sally had always been interested in palliative care and took her practicum at St. Michael’s Hospital years prior. Inspired by Balfour Mount – a Canadian surgeon considered the father of palliative care – Sally volunteered with Hospice Simcoe and eventually retired from the hospital in 1997 to pursue work in the hospice industry.
MacCarl’s passing left the Taylors with funds to invest in a day hospice in South Simcoe, as volunteers searched for a more permanent structure for hospice care in the Simcoe region.
In 2004, the Taylors found a house for sale in Alliston owned by a well-known family in the community - The Matthews. Mrs. Matthews passed away from ALS, prompting her daughter to sell the house. The Taylors purchased the house and wanted to honor the family by keeping the name; thus Matthews House Hospice was born.
“The reason we were able to open those doors was because of my mother,” expresses Sally.
Frank adds “I was inspired by Sally, but helping take care of Ruth during the last nine months of her life is what really encouraged us to do what we do. I really enjoyed being by her side… she really enjoyed playing cribbage - she would beat me every time.”
As word spread of the new facility Matthews House grew in its first year, enabling the Taylors to launch new programs and hire more staff and volunteers. In 2007, the hospice became one of four pilot sites in Ontario and a year later became an independent hospice with its own board.
“We had a very clear vision on what hospices should be – inclusive and participatory,” explains Frank. “Decision making would include as many people wanted to be part of it. This was something we felt was very important. And we also felt that volunteers should be hands on to whatever level - we had lots of volunteer opportunities.”
“My thing was being hands on,” adds Sally. “We encouraged the volunteers to be as active as they wanted, and we offered a caregiver support group for them which ended up being our most successful group”.
The four bed hospice offers a beautiful outdoor garden in the backyard, where patients can retreat and relax. Their mission was always to offer care and compassion to those experiencing a life-limiting illness, or in the end of life cycle.
“To have someone in the room with a patient all the time is important,” expresses Sally. “Our goal was to have someone there for anyone in their end times.”
Government grants and funding allowed the hospice to renovate and maintain a standard of excellence for the care of patients, and in 2016 the centre was recognized as “the hub” in South Simcoe with community partners and stakeholders to help meet the current and future needs of the facility.
In 2018, Matthews House officially opened a second building, Centre of Excellence, with 10 beds to accommodate more patients with continued support and government funding for permanent, ongoing operations.
“I had a client who ended up in the hospital and his family was estranged from him, so he didn’t have a lot of support,” remembers Frank. “He was in and out of consciousness and I talked to him and held his hand for hours. He had one of those lucid moments and was aware of my presence, and one time when he awoke, he asked where I was… that’s part of the reason we do what we do. It’s important to be there in those moments.”
Although Frank and Sally have since retired from their work at Matthews House Hospice, they will always treasure the memories they made there together.
“We have lots of good experiences [there],” shares Sally. “Wonderful memories and that’s important as you get older.”
To learn more about Matthews House Hospice, visit: www.matthewshousehospice.ca