Tag Archives: Hospice

UBC Hospice Controversy

Maybe it is because my mother and family benefited from the services of a hospice when she was dying that I feel sensitive about the controversy surrounding the proposed building of a hospice on UBC’s campus.  The predominantly Chinese residents of a nearby condominium have strongly opposed the proposed site saying having death so near their homes will make it difficult for them to remain in their residence.

In January the university held an open house which gave residents the opportunity to publicly air their concerns. The controversy that ensued  led to the postponement of the proposal until UBC had the opportunity to further evaluate and research the residents’ concerns. There was some speculation that residents’ concerns were based on the fear that a nearby hospice would topple their property value.

Subsequent research by the University has  shown that property values in areas where hospices have been built have, in fact, increased significantly (Canuck Place Childrens’ Hospice and a hospice in the Downtown Eastside have both increased well over 100%) thereby debunking the notion that the development of the hospice would compromise people’s investments.

So how do we talk about this without the conversation devolving into cultural misunderstanding and hostility?  So the only way I can talk about it is from my own experience in personal terms.

Prior to my own mother dying, death was a black hole of a topic. I had no experience with it and from what I understood or had witnessed it was largely something people went and did somewhere else.  Dying to me was scary.  But then one day to your shock you find out that someone you know and love is dying and it suddenly becomes a part of your life.

I became familiar with hospice services when we discovered that it was the very best place a person can be aside from their own home when they’re on their last journey in life. Hospice care is the most humane, loving, comfortable form of care a person with life ending illness can receive. It’s designed to allow a person to die with dignity while also accomm0dating the needs of their family. Hospices are often in beautiful locations that try as best as possible to recreate a home-like atmosphere. The volunteers and staff are trained to embrace the dying as a stage of life  we will all pass through and not as a disease that separates us from the living.

One of the ironies of life is that I actually felt quite  alive during my mom’s stay in the hospice. Since then I have come to understand that the fabric of life is in constant flux right up until we draw our last breath. When you understand time is short everything becomes electric and infused with meaning even the most mundane things. To have the honour to be able to have this part of a person’s life take place in an amazingly supportive, beautiful, gentle and yes, inspiring environment was something that I will remember for the rest of my life. My mother deserved this.

Death isn’t an easy thing. But my mother and the hospice taught me that it’s an integral part of life. I would never compare dying to cultural differences because dying is simply a stage in life. But it’s one that we’ve been taught to set apart. I think as a society we need to embrace the difficult and the different. If we always turn away or segregate differences then I don’t really believe we can function as a truly humane and civil society.

What if I said I didn’t want people with physical challenges to live near me? Or people who dressed differently than myself? I’m not sure where this leads us as a civil society. But I don’t think it’s good.


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End of life care decisions: Dorothy Ley Hospice

It was very difficult for us as a family to realize that we couldn’t care for Rosie at home. The truth was that the idea of caring for my mother at the end stages of her illness  was for most of us a scary prospect both emotionally and physically. And yet for me that wasn’t the absolute deciding factor.  After talking to a wonderful social worker called Cathy Mahuran we realized that there were things that were going to happen to my mother physically as a result of her illness that would make it a challenge for us to keep her as comfortable and as safe as possible.

Responsiveness to pain management and the ability for my mother to be able to undergo paracentesis (fluid drainage) once or twice a week to keep her comfortable were all deciding factors.

Truthfully bringing Rosie to longterm care was probably one of the most difficult things we have ever done. My mom who is extremely mentally alert was all of a sudden confused and terrified. She couldn’t figure out where she was or why, she kept asking us how she got there and how would she know how to get home and worst of all she was terrified of the personal care workers. Even though we met some amazing people at McCall Longterm Care (particularly nurses and social workers) the fact that she was afraid made it hard to leave her there.

We heard that because she was already considered to be out in the community that her chances of getting into a hospice were very small. Even so we kept her name on lists and worked with the social workers and coordinators to make sure they understood how important it was to my mom and us that she be in an absolute quality end of care facility. Short of being accepted at a hospice we would spend as much time with her at the facility as we could.

I’m not sure how it happened but the day before yesterday we got a call that a bed had become available at Dorothy Ley Hospice. As soon as we arrived I think we all had a collective sigh of relief. The surroundings are beautiful and the are staff absolutely amazing. Rosie deserves to die in love and comfort. Thanks to all the people who volunteer their time so generously to hospice care, to the fundraisers and staff who make these jewels a reality.

“Spiritual care lies at the heart of hospice. It says we are here. We will be with you in your living and your dying. We will free you from pain and give you the freedom to find your own meaning in your own life – your way. We will comfort you and those you love – not always with words, often with a touch or a glance. We will bring you hope – not for tomorrow but for this day. We will not leave you. We will watch with you. We will be there.” Dr. Dorothy Ley

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