When I began working at Hospice Waterloo Region in September 2020, I walked in knowing that we were building — and opening — a 10-bed hospice in the middle of a pandemic.
By Adrienne Barker, Residence Director of Care
Opening a hospice under usual circumstances is a logistical maze that presents challenges for any organization. Doing this during a pandemic with a wonky supply chain, lockdowns and ever-shifting target dates is not for the feint of heart. However, the staff at Hospice Waterloo Region have been nothing short of remarkable. I knew that I was working for a fantastic organization, but it didn’t take long for me to understand how committed the staff were to the vision.
In September, we began the hiring process for a kitchen supervisor, personal support workers, registered nurses and registered practice nurses. Our hiring team consisted of Chris Bigelow, Director of the Hospice Palliative Care Consultant team, and Carol Shantz, who is a dedicated volunteer team lead. When we started hiring for the residence, I hoped that we could find people as dedicated and effective as the folks currently working at Hospice. And, without a doubt, we found them.
The residence team started their orientation in February 2021, which was four weeks long and focused on team building and hospice operations. Our final 10 days involved learning our new systems and setting up the hospice with all the goodies sourced by Leslie Duffy and Lori Helm. Setting up involved everything from making beds, organizing the medication and supply rooms to posting our mission and goals for the care provision in each residence room. In short, we took the empty rooms and turned them warm and inviting spaces for our residents.
The pandemic has presented interesting challenges, including supply chain disruptions and ever-evolving deadlines. Despite this, the team continued to work hard to prepare for our first families. Throughout it all, there has been a strong desire to get it right so that we can serve the community with dignity and respect. Our opening has been intentionally slow, giving the staff a chance to get to know the building and to work out the kinks. Along the way, there have been frustrating moments, and a whole lot of laughter and joy. And we are providing high quality compassionate end of life care despite the pandemic. If this is what we can do during a pandemic, I cannot wait to see what we can do when restrictions are lifted.
A hospice residence is a place of comfort and care for those who are at the end of their life. It is a place where families can be family and where everyone is meant to feel at home.
Hospice of Waterloo Region is proud to offer hospice residence services in our new Cook Family Residence. The hospice residence is a part of the new Gies Family Centre, where we also offer programs for those in the community who require support.
Our 10-bed hospice residence provides palliative care for those at end of life and support for their families. The residence interdisciplinary team consists of specially trained palliative nurses, personal support workers, social workers, spiritual care providers, kitchen and housekeeping aides along with many different volunteer supports.
The space has been designed for the comfort of the resident and their family and, in addition to private individual rooms with opportunity for family to stay over, it includes individual private outdoor courtyards, many quiet places for reflection, special family gathering places and common outdoor space for contemplation.
Our philosophy of care is grounded in the words of Dame Cicely Saunders: “you matter because you are you – and you matter right to the end of your life”. We recognize that when cure is not possible, providing care and comfort focused on quality of life is the priority.