Giving Back

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When you give to the Hospice Palliative Care Society of Cape Breton County your generosity has a profound impact. The money helps us to provide comfort and care for those facing life limiting illnesses. And, that comfort and care can take many forms. As Patricia Jackson, Chair of the Society, says “any immediate need is met immediately.”

The Society provides financial assistance to those within the service, both in hospital and at home. That assistance pays for the unique and personal health related needs of individuals at a time when they are most needed. For some wishing to stay at home, it could mean oil in the tank that ensures the home stays warm. For others wishing to see their loved one, it could mean the fare that brings them to their bedside. In some cases, it has meant enabling that special celebration, whether it’s a birthday, graduation or a wedding, making for lasting family memories.

The Society will step in to help when medical and nursing staff alert them to the needs they encounter for the individuals and families in their care. For example, the cost of ambulance transfers has been covered, as have parking passes, or the cost of a trip to the hospital for much needed treatment. Family members have received gas cards to enable a visit to a loved one, groceries when the cupboards are bare, and blankets and books for someone who needed both. Whatever is needed to help someone stay in their preferred environment, it is done.

Any equipment needed to make it possible for individuals to stay at home is provided. In this way, they are surrounded by the people and in the environment they are most comfortable. Sometimes, the funds will go to renting hospital beds, or equipment to modify the washroom, hygienic products for adults—whatever is needed to ensure the comfort of the individual.

Additionally, when noel nursing care is needed for a night or two to provide rest for the family when a loved one is in the last stages of life, the Society can help to provide it. The dedicated medical and nursing staff who provide care to individuals both in hospital and at home are able to stay current and can take advantage of professional development opportunities thanks to the support of the Society. Staff are able to attend conferences, or take in courses that ensure they have access to the most up-to-date practices within the spectrum of palliative care.

For families who are left to mourn after a loved one is gone, bereavement support can be extremely critical. Knowing that you are not alone when you are grieving, that there are places to turn, can provide a vital lifeline at a time when emotions can feel overwhelming.

Music therapy is also funded by the Society and the Cape Breton Regional Hospital Foundation. This program brings the gift of music in many forms, whether as a legacy cd, through the build-a-bear program or through the simple joy of hearing your favourite song when you need it most. Recently, Music Therapist Jill Murphy learned one of her clients was a big Johnny Reid fan, and wondered if attendance at an upcoming concert could be arranged. Thanks to Hospice staff, this individual was able to not only attend the concert but had an opportunity to meet the singer, receive a kiss and a cuddle and get a photo with him! For her it was a truly magical night and provided an immeasurable amount of comfort and joy.

Of course on the An Cala Unit, there is a range of services and supports the Society provides, including managing the volunteer program that makes a difficult time a little easier for individuals and their families. The volunteers provide home made baked goods, soups and nourishment, brighten rooms with flowers or simply provide a warm smile or a compassionate touch. As Greg Boyd, said, “our family was blown away by the care my father received recently. The facility, the staff and volunteers allowed us to enjoy much of what would otherwise have been the worst two weeks of our lives. Thank you.”

Your gift means so much to so many. Your generosity helps us to touch lives with comfort, care and compassion. Because you give, so can we.

Pop Up Shop a Success!

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From May 4-6th, the Sunflower Treasures Pop-Up Shop was blooming with trinkets and treasures of all sorts and sizes. The amazing generosity of the community allowed us to offer a full range of beautiful items to suit every taste. The event, organized and run by a large group of dedicated volunteers, raised $27,000 for the Society! The funds will go towards the much needed community Hospice Residence. It also allowed people like Olivia Matheson to find that very special gift for one special person—her Mom!

Hospice Residence Update

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With the emergence of spring, we look forward to new growth and the development of our Hospice Residence project. Many of you, who are our dedicated supporters have been inquiring as to how close we are to seeing the new Hospice Residence open it doors. We would like to take this opportunity to update you on the work of our volunteer board and staff and introduce our “Strengthening Circles of Care” Campaign Chairs.

During the last year, our business model for bringing this project to completion has changed and we are pleased that we are getting closer to fulfilling our dream of building a Hospice Residence.

The Society is delighted to be working in partnership with Membertou Properties and the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA). The Hospice Residence will cost $5.2 million. Membertou Properties is providing the land and site preparation valued at $1.2 million and the Society is committed to raising $4 million to cover the cost of construction and furnishings. Negotiations with the NSHA are ongoing regarding the assumption of the operations budget.

The Hospice Palliative Care Society of Cape Breton County plans to raise the $4 million through the ongoing generosity of our community, friends and supporters. To lead our fundraising efforts, we are pleased to welcome and introduce our Campaign Chairs, Monica and Brian Shebib. Monica is well known for her dedication and volunteerism especially in the area of Hospice Palliative Care. When Monica isn’t busy volunteering with Hospice Palliative Care at the Northside General, she is active as a director with the Society’s board as well as engaging in numerous other community organizations. Brian is also active in the community and after retiring from M.V. Osprey he continues to be involved in development projects throughout the CBRM. We are grateful to have such a dynamic couple leading the Society’s fundraising efforts. The campaign is still in the early stages of development and we will keep you informed as we progress with both our fundraising and construction plans for the Hospice Residence.

We wish everyone a wonderful summer and look forward to sharing additional details about this exciting community partnership in the near future.

– Patricia Jackson and Nancy Dingwall

Building A Legacy – One Bear At A Time

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When Kristen Bach raised the idea of recording her father’s voice, one of the most popular and poignant projects of the Music Therapy Program was born. Thanks to the germ of this idea, Music Therapist Jill Murphy has helped individuals record their voice and place it in a teddy bear as a legacy for their families. Known as the build-a-bear program, Jill has helped to provide this cherished memento to about 15 families to date. The program is made possible through the equal support of the Hospice Palliative Care Society of Cape Breton County and the Cape Breton Regional Hospital Foundation.

Murphy recalls the original request from Darryl Bach who thought Kristen’s idea was a great one, and wanted to surprise his two daughters, Kristen and Julia, with this precious gift. The voice box is placed in the bear’s hand and can record a ten-second message. “I usually counsel individuals to say the name of their loved one, to say I love you, and remind them I’ll always be with you,” says Murphy. She has noted the profound impact it has on those receiving the bear, and those who are giving it. “Many individuals wonder if loved ones will remember the sound of their voice, this helps to ensure they always have a reminder close at hand.”

This simple concept has provided comfort to a range of patients and families. A grandmother recorded a message for the granddaughter she would never meet. She told her “I’ll always be love you and be watching over you.” Murphy has also acquired a stethoscope as part of the program, and has recorded the heart beat of patients which can be interwoven with a favourite piece of music. The grandmother was able to hear the baby’s heartbeat and subsequently recorded her own so her grandchild would always have the sound of her grandmother’s love with her. And, the bears are for more than children. One individual recalls receiving a teddy bear from her brother when they were children, which remained with them through the years. It sparked the idea to provide another bear for her loved one, saying “you took such good care of the first one, here’s another for you to cherish.”

Jill makes a point of backing up the recordings, and holding on to them for safe keeping, so individuals don’t have to worry if something should happen to the bear’s voice box.

“Having the support of the Society really allows us to touch people’s lives in a profound way,” says Murphy. She still recalls the look of relief on the face of one patient when he learned there was no cost to create and provide the bear to his family members. “We work with some very brave people,” says Murphy. “This isn’t always an easy thing to do but allows families to treasure the voice of their loved one, for years to come.”

Darryl’s wife says the original idea came from her daughter. “Kristen discussed it with Darryl, but he had enlisted Jill’s help and surprised the girls, Sheena Bach says. “This is such a special treasure for them to have. I’m so happy it’s helping others too.”

Featured in Photo: Dad Darryl with daughters Kristen and Julia—and bears!

Taking the Plunge, For a Good Cause!

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The folks in Port Morien always like to ring in the new year with a ‘splash’, and not just of the bubbly. The annual Port Morien Polar Bear Dip is growing more popular with each year, and 2018 was no exception. This event acts as a fundraiser with proceeds shared between the Branch 55 Legion and a local charity. For the first time, the Polar Bear Dip Committee chose Hospice Palliative Care Society of Cape Breton as the beneficiary. Committee Chair Katherine MacDonald says “we chose the Society because of the significant work that is carried out in the community. Our committee members had experienced first hand the kindness and compassion this service provides to patients and their families, and we wanted to help the service continue their important work.”

The Port Morien Polar Bear Dip was thrilled to have the biggest total raised to date, at $5,200, with $2,600 going to the Hospice Palliative Care Society of Cape Breton County. Now that’s refreshing!

Paying it Forward

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Darren Smith was working in Northern Ontario when he was diagnosed with cancer. The news brought him back to his parents who had moved to Cape Breton. During his first visit to the Cape Breton Regional Hospital he learned that his cancer was far more advanced than he had imagined. It was stage 4 and terminal and he was given six months to live. Darren passed away 18 months later.

Darren’s Mom, Brenda Burton speaks of the experience at the Hospital and the An Cala Unit as nothing but positive. “On every step of our journey, the care and support was excellent,” says Burton. Being new to the area, Darren and his family didn’t know a lot of people, and she says the staff and volunteers became extended family.

Darren spent time on the unit on a few occasions and was always appreciative of the fact he had his own space and his own TV. His last visit to the unit was in December and his Mom remembers how wonderful it was to be able to take advantage of the near by kitchen to enjoy coffee or some home made baked goods that were offered daily.

She remembers getting a picture of Darren by the tree and how much the family appreciated the home-like atmosphere around them. “On the unit, they thought of everything,” says Brenda noting how appreciative the family was of the available play space on the unit for Darren’s niece and nephew. “They had a chance to see their uncle, then they could go and play freely.” She recalls how much the flowers, little gift bags and simple acts of kindness meant to Darren. “He was young, but those gestures meant a lot to him.”

Burton also recalls how important it was for Darren to attend Rotary’s Ribfest. For three years, the Hospice Society benefitted from the proceeds given at the gate. Even when he wasn’t feeling well, he wanted to attend so he could contribute to a cause that had become so important to him.

During his stay, Darren and his Mom spent time watching the World Junior hockey tournament together. He wondered if others were as lucky as he, with a television and the space to enjoy their favourite shows as a family. As the two were enjoying the games, Darren said “we have to pay it forward Mom, can you do that for me?”

Darren was always sensitive to the needs of others. As the disease and the medications began to alter his personality, he would apologize for his inability to settle. Brenda is so grateful for the care he received, and takes comfort in the fact that her son did not suffer.

Brenda took Darren’s words to heart, and provided a very generous gift to the An Cala Unit. As a result, the Society was able to purchase new televisions for several of the rooms on the unit, so that others can enjoy their favourite shows as Darren did.

Darren had asked his Mom to keep paying it forward, we are so grateful to Darren and his family for doing so.

Memories Cast in Stone

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On June 4, 2018 a Memorial Service was held to remember patients in the Palliative Care Service who passed away between September 2017 and March 2018. It was one of two services held annually, with the other taking place in November. Upon arrival, each family member was asked to choose from a range of unique stones to hold on to during the service, and take with them upon leaving. The service honoured 297 patients with the stones, in song and in quiet reflection.

The “Significance of the Stone” was read by one of the palliative care nursing staff:

As you came in the door this evening each of you selected a stone.
Each stone is unique.
Some are weathered and worn and others are
Smooth and delicate. Its journey to get here was as varied as the paths that have
Led you here this evening.
This stone is a symbol of strength and endurance, qualities many of you
Displayed throughout your loved ones’ journey. As we move
Through this service, we ask that you hold onto the stone and think
of your loved one.
We hope that you will keep this stone at home or in a special place and at a moment.
When you may need a bit of strength, take comfort in knowing that your stone endures.

Busting the Myths around the Palliative Approach to Care

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Busting the Myths around the Palliative Approach to Care:

Myth #1: Palliative care is most appropriate for patients who will likely die within weeks.
It’s a common misperception that a palliative approach to care is for patients who are dying. In reality, taking a palliative approach means focusing on improving the quality of life, and focusing holistically on pain and symptom management for those with life limiting illnesses. It is provided in all health care settings and involves physical, psychological, social, and spiritual care.

Myth #2: Treatment stops when palliative care starts.
You may think that palliative care signals the end of chronic disease management and related treatment. In reality, some disease-oriented treatments improve symptoms and increase quality of life and therefore continue to be provided as a comfort measure.


Myth #3: Palliative care is best provided by specialists.
Some think that only specialists can provide palliative care. In reality, a palliative approach to care is part of providing comprehensive primary care and can be augmented, if required, by palliative care professionals. We believe that the palliative approach to care should be part of the skills and competencies of all health care providers who care for patients with serious life limiting illnesses.

Myth #4: Raising the topic of palliative care with patients and caregivers robs them of hope.
You may think that patients are better o not talking about palliative care. In reality, a patient does not have to be within weeks of dying to bene t from palliative care. You can start the discussion early about protecting their quality of life as long as possible, which could include clinical interventions but also means understanding what’s important to that patient. Patients can articulate what’s important to them through advance care planning—a process that encourages individuals to re ect on their values and wishes, and lets others know their future health and personal care preferences in the event that they become incapable of consenting to or refusing treatment or other care. Ask yourself this question if you are wondering when you should raise advance care planning with a patient: Would you be surprised if this patient died within 6-12 months? If you answered yes, then raising the subject with your patient is really important.

Together We Care Golf Tournament

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Thank you to the wonderful volunteers, sponsors, organizers and participants of the 21st Annual Together We Care Golf Tournament, that took place at Bell Bay Golf Club on Friday, June 22nd. We had beautiful weather and a great turnout of golfers!

The Together We Care Golf Tournament is a major fundraising event for the Hospice Palliative Care Society that contributes significantly to comfort and care support programs and services for patients and families facing life-threatening illness in ways that are personal and as unique as the patients themselves.



Palliative Care Memorial Service

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Our bi-annual Palliative Care Memorial Service is coming up on Monday, June 4th, at 7:00pm at Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Sydney River. This service is for families of those who passed between September 1, 2017 and February 28, 2018.
The Cape Breton Regional Hospital Choir will join Jenn Sheppard, Jordyn Crocker, Stephen Muise and our Music Therapist, Jill Murphy, in providing beautiful music for this service. 🎶
There will be a reception to follow downstairs in the Parish Hall.