One hundred and fifty-two candles glow at the entrance of Margaret Bahen Hospice, honouring the residents and families who have found caring, compassion and comfort there since it first opened its doors one year ago.
Each candle represents a resident of the 10-bed hospice who received end-of-life care in the home-like environment in the last year.
The hospice’s focus on living each and every moment to the fullest will be celebrated throughout the month with events marking the first-year anniversary.
Heather* became a part of the hospice family when her mother, who was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, spent her last days there.
“Our family will always treasure our experience at Margaret Bahen Hospice,” she said at an event Tuesday, Nov. 6 with dignitaries, community members, volunteers and donors, including the late Margaret Bahen’s daughter, Susan Chant, and two grandchildren, as well as board members and staff.
“Mom enjoyed being treated like a queen while she was visiting at Margaret Bahen,” she said. “It’s hard to put into words how much our experience at Margaret Bahen meant to our family. It gave my family a sense of calm and ease in the face of a cruel and indiscriminate illness. It gave my mother a sense of dignity and peace in a way that we would never have thought possible with her being either at home or in a hospital room.”
Emotionally drained from the stress of the diagnosis and providing care at home, her family’s spirits were lifted immediately when their mother was admitted, knowing they would be able to spend quality time together during those last months.
She gave tribute to the staff, “a special group of people” for the care, kindness and love they give to the patients and families, and to the “tireless” volunteers who are “an invaluable part of the Margaret Bahen experience”.
“You are the friendly faces and the proverbial hug when we need it the most.”
In the first year at the hospice, 157 volunteers provided more than 10,700 hours of their time.
Margaret Bahen Hospice opened its doors Nov. 1, 2017, to support individuals with a life-limiting illness from the beginning of diagnosis to their final days.
The residential hospice, which serves all of York Region, provides 24-hour palliative care in 10 private suites at no cost.
The hospice is expected to care for more than 250 residents and their families annually.
“It’s about family,” said Sonya Murray, executive director of Margaret Bahen Hospice, as she recounted some of the special acts of kindness and caring that have taken place in the last year.
“It’s bringing a pony into the hospice to cheer up a resident who spent a lifetime with horses.
“It’s our PSW (personal support worker), Holly, sitting at the table explaining death to an 11-year-old who is about to lose a family member.
“It’s Debbie, our director of development, spending hours holding a six-year-old whose mother has just died.
“It’s our PSW, Mark, running out on his break to get one of our residents some chips and watching a late-night sports game with him,” said Murray.
“So ask me what 365 days are and all that we have accomplished and I can’t properly quantify it. What we value here are all those moments that make up those 365 days. What we value here is the quality of life. So, on our first-year anniversary, we are thankful for the opportunity to be part of these moments. It is a true privilege to join this journey with the individuals and families who have chosen Margaret Bahen Hospice to be their final home.”
The event included a performance by the St. Andrew’s College Pipe Band for guests, as well as a special performance at dusk for residents in the courtyard.
“This hospice is an absolute treasure for this region,” said Deputy Premier and Minister of Health and Long-term Care Christine Elliott, who also attended. “I have had the opportunity, I can say, to spend a few hours here to understand completely everything that is being done here. It is a beautiful building, of course, but it’s what goes on inside here, and the compassion that people show, the extent to which you try to make people’s final days comfortable and happy, and make their families feel that they are in good hands and that they are being well cared for, that is truly remarkable.”
During the first year of operation:
- 79 per cent of residents had cancer;
- 71 per cent of residents came from home;
- median length of stay was 11.5 days;
- minimum length of stay was six hours;
- 96 per cent bed occupancy rate;
- Newmarket residents made up the largest portion of stays at 34 per cent;
- Bradford West Gwillimbury residents made up 6.5 per cent of the stays;
- 1,820 hours of grief and bereavement support provided;
- 8,760 bowls of soup served;
- $665,480 in donations.
Each room at the hospice includes an adjustable hospital bed for the resident, an additional Murphy-style bed for loved ones who wish to stay overnight and a private washroom. A shared kitchen and dining area is offered, as well as shared common space for all residents. In addition to palliative care services, the hospice offers a range of housekeeping, recreational and support services to residents, their caregivers and family.
*last name omitted by request for privacy reasons