Hospice a piece of heaven for terminally ill


A Turner Valley family couldn’t imagine a better place for a loved one to spend their final moments than the Foothills Country Hospice.

William Lacey’s health quickly declined earlier this year and his family was able to admit him into the hospice during his final weeks.

They say it was the best decision they could have made and felt like they had won the lottery by getting a bed there.

“We felt a huge sense of relief when he went into the hospice because he had everything taken care of for him,” said William’s daughter Bridget Lacey. “It was a really great level of care and service. It was almost as close as you could get to private nursing. It was the best place for him.”

After spending about five weeks in the hospice, William passed away surrounded by family. He was 65 years old.

“They called us all in because they could see the sign of him passing,” Bridget recalls of her father’s final day. “They walked us through the process as it was happening. They were trying to manage his medication so that he wouldn’t feel any pain at the end, so his passing would be peaceful. The nursing staff was there with us right to the very last moment.”

The Foothills Country Hospice Society is one of eight charities benefiting from the annual Western Wheel Cares charity campaign.

The hospice is a grassroots community-sponsored organization that provides compassionate care to people who are terminally ill, at no cost.

For the Lacey family, it was the difference between William having a stressful end in a busy hospital and a peaceful end at the hospice.

Bridget said her father was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2008. Despite various treatments and surgeries over the years, the cancer spread and hit William especially hard earlier this year.

“He went downhill pretty rapidly,” she said. “At Christmas he was doing a big renovation in the bathroom. By February he was mostly bedridden.”

William spent a month in Oilfields General Hospital in Black Diamond before being transferred to palliative care at Foothills Hospital in Calgary in July.

“He’d rarely been outside all the time he had been in the hospital, so he missed spring and summer,” said Bridget of her outdoor-loving father.

“He had a hard time getting attention at Foothills Hospital because it was a big ward.”

When William was moved to the hospice, he spent almost every day on the deck in the sunshine, said Lacey.

“As soon as he woke up in the morning he tried to get outside,” she said. “We went for a walk around the grounds at least once when I was there. He really enjoyed that.”

Staff and volunteers at Foothills Country Hospice went to great lengths to make William and his family feel at home, said Bridget.

“They made him feel comfortable and as if he were a part of a family,” she said. “The nursing staff was so attentive.”

Providing that level of care for the approximately 100 patients in the hospice’s eight beds, and their families, each year is about $950 per day, said hospice executive director Dawn Elliott.

She said the patients stay in the hospice for an average of 21 days.

“For us it’s about the living end of the journey,” Elliott said. “It takes the burden of care away from our patient families. Our patients do not pay for their stay or their meals while they’re with us.”

The cost to operate the Foothills Country Hospice is $2.8 million annually. The hospice receives 61 per cent of its funding from Alberta Health Services and makes up the difference through donations and fundraising initiatives, like the Western Wheel Cares campaign.

“The donation from the Western Wheel Cares means an awful lot to us,” said Elliott. “It gives us an opportunity to take care of some of the items we have on the wish list for our patients at the hospice. We are very grateful for the generosity of our community and the Western Wheel for all the efforts they put into running this campaign. Every penny makes a difference for us.”

High on the priority list this year are wireless pillow switch call bells for the patients and replacing casters on some of the patient beds, which Elliott said will cost about $5,000.

Donations to the Wheel Cares Campaign can be made via credit card, debit, cash or cheque (payable to Western Wheel Cares) at #9 McRae Street, mailed to Box 150 Okotoks, AB T1S 2A2 (please do not mail cash) or by calling 403-938-6397. Visit www.westernwheel.com to donate using Paypal. Donations of $10 or more will receive a 2017 official tax receipt at the end of the campaign. For more information call the Western Wheel office Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 403-938-6397 or email Gayle Wolf at gwolf@okotoks.greatwest.ca


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