Here to help
From left, staff members Lisa Casselman and Linda Johnson pose outside the Dundas County Hospice in Williamsburg along with hospice volunteer Nancy Carruthers. They are promoting the hospice’s upcoming 25th anniversary open house on Sun., Oct. 1.     Vetter photo

Candice Vetter
Record Staff
WILLIAMSBURG – The Dundas County Hospice is celebrating 25 years of service to the residents of North and South Dundas and is hosting an open house at their office at 4353 County Rd. 31, Williamsburg, on Sun. Oct. 1, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. There will be a short ceremony at 2 p.m. and a visit from Nadine Volk of the Champlain Hospice and Family Care Program.

The three part-time staff members are calling on all former staff, volunteers or clients, as well as the general public, to come out and see what the hospice does, what volunteering is about, and to show their support for the hospice. “We’re hoping people from our earlier years will come out – anyone associated with us in the past,” said Linda Johnson, Director of Client and Volunteer Services. “This is a chance for the community to find out what we do. For us it’s an opportunity to talk to people, to explain our services, and what our role is in the community.”

The organization works alongside other health-care agencies and its board of directors, staff and volunteers strive to make clients’ last days comfortable. One reason for this outreach is to encourage residents of Dundas Townships to contact them earlier. “So often we hear about the need a week or two before a person’s passing,” said Johnson. “If we could get to see them a couple of months earlier we can help make them more comfortable sooner.” She said that potential clients can refer themselves, and referrals can also come from friends, relatives and neighbours. The client is then assessed in a home visit, which helps determine their physical needs, and what is required to support them in their homes as long as possible. There is also help with referrals to other health support agencies.

“One misunderstanding,” said Lisa Casselman, Executive Director, “is that when you sign on with hospice all hope is lost, but it’s not always that way.” She said, “Hospice is not about death, it is about living and making last days as full as possible.”

Another misunderstanding she mentioned was beds. “People may think we have beds. We don’t. We offer our services to clients in their homes.” The services include volunteer visits, equipment lending, assessment of needs and help with getting those needs met, and Casselman hopes to add more help with clients’ small practical needs.

A day program is a big part of what they do too and is another reason to contact them earlier. Clients can come to a day of activities each Wednesday, which is about six hours long, includes a hot meal prepared by volunteers, and offers arts, entertainment, socialization, a bit of relief, and a respite for caregivers and families.

A recent caregivers’ coffee break has also begun and is held the first Tuesday of every month from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. “Drop in, have coffee with us, talk to each other,” said Casselman of the peer-led program.

A grief and bereavement support group meets on the second Tuesday of each month.

“And we always welcome more volunteers and board members,” Johnson added. Volunteers who do visits with clients receive 30 hours of training in an online interactive course. Volunteers can also take part in a 15-hour course on grief and bereavement, and can join bi-monthly meetings which include education segments.

“We really couldn’t survive if it wasn’t for our volunteers,” said Casselman.

Volunteer Nancy Carruthers agreed. “It’s a great job to do,” she said, “with lots of variety.”

All services offered by the hospice are free and available to North and South Dundas residents. The Board of Directors has mandated that services be accessible to all so there is absolutely no intention to start charging fees.

Another popular service is medical equipment lending, and it is the only service that non-residents can access, on the strict condition that equipment is returned. The exception is made because there is not such a service in many neighbouring communities, and they don’t want to turn people away if they have such simple needs.

Before being lent out all equipment is disinfected. Much of it is donated after it is no longer needed, and the hospice also gratefully accepts donations of money, of course, and of items like adult diapers, nutrition supplements, etc.

The office hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., but with only three part-time staff it is not always open, so it is helpful to call them before making the trip, at 613-535-2215.

Anyone interested in learning more may wish to come out to the open house on Oct. 1.