By ROY WOOD
With the hiring of a new staffer and a major capital funding campaign on the near horizon, the Desert Valley Hospice Society (DVHS) continues to expand its role as the leader in hospice and end-of-life services in the South Okanagan.
Executive director Donna Gordan told ODN in an interview this week that the society is formulating its capital program right now. The short-term goal is to provide one bed at the Osoyoos support and care facility to offer “respite” for care-givers.
“Respite means that when primary care giver – a spouse or a child — wants to go out of town for a week or a weekend, the patient could come here and have 24-hour care,” said Gordan.
Eventually, she said, she hopes to see four to six beds at the facility, which currently offers hospitality suites for relatives visiting elderly relatives in care in Osoyoos, Oliver or Okanagan Falls. The building also contains a massage room, complete kitchen, living are, craft room and offices for staff.
Gordan came to the DVHS a little over a year ago from a fund-raising job with the Canadian Cancer Foundation in Edmonton.
She is the “chief funds developer” at the society. And making the job a perfect fit was her “experience with death and dyeing. I assisted my mom with her end-of-live journey. She was 94 and passed away from pneumonia. … I was her primary care giver for a month while she was on her journey.”
The position that will be open shortly is a “hospice volunteer program director.” Society president Lois Brummet is currently filling the role in a volunteers capacity. The job description and pay scale have t be approved by the board before the search can begin.
For an organization that runs mainly on volunteers, it is a vital role. Programs provided by the DVHS from Okanagan Falls to Osoyoos include:
Supportive care day program – On Thursdays from 10 to 3 for people with chronic or serious illness gather at the centre for socialization, activities, lunch and social-emotional care;
Palliative massage – Trained volunteers offer massage to clients and care-givers;
Acute Care – Volunteers visit patients at the South Okanagan General Hospital and provide support;
Grief Support – Trained volunteers and staff provide one-on-one grief support, education and referrals;
Volunteer Training – Twice a year, 36-hour training programs are conducted for would-be volunteers;
Let Your Life Speak – Clients share stories and messages. Volunteers conduct interviews and create paper or digital files to share with family and friends;
NAV Care – Seriously ill people are assigned navigators to support them through the health care system and finding community resources;
One-to-one support – Volunteers offer support in homes, care facilities or hospital. Social companioning and respite can be part of the service, as are end-of-life vigils;
Tuck-in program – A Thursday afternoon phone call to clients to ensure they have medications, equipment, supplies and care in place for the weekend.
The annual budget for the society is about $150,000, of which 75 per cent comes from fund raising.
In November the society will hold its 12th annual Celebration of Sharing Hands. It’s a wine and cheese fund raiser at the Frank Venables Theatre in Oliver, including silent and live auctions and a bake sale.
Another long-time event is the annual Hike for Hospice in Oliver and Osoyoos.
And making its debut this year in January will be the Hootenanny for Hospice at the Legion in Osoyoos.
The DVHS was created in 2006 by a group of 11 women from Oliver and Osoyoos. In 2007 it became a registered charity.
The society continues to evolve. Brummet told ODN that the board has not yet a “complete governance board … we are still a working board.”
Brummet recently received the BC Hospice Palliative Care Association’s 2018 Award of Excellence for her work and dedication to hospice palliative care.