Hospice Halifax still caring for loved ones in spite of restrictions

Hospice Halifax still caring for loved ones in spite of restrictions

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Contributors:

Mina Atia
Halifax Chamber of Commerce
Intern, Communications Coordinator

Hospice Halifax, the non-profit organization formerly known as the Hospice Society of Greater Halifax, is well known in Halifax for its important role in supporting people caring for their loved ones. The pandemic forced them to restrict visitors and activities, but that didn’t stop Hospice from providing their world-class care – they obtained 10 iPads for patients to facilitate virtual visits with loved ones.

“We have much better awareness in the community now than we used to have, and we are seen as a go-to resource for people,” says Hospice Halifax CEO Gordon Neal. “A lot of money will be allotted to this kind of services, which will allow us to expand some of our offerings.”

Hospice offers end-of-life care and resources to make dying and living as comfortable and as meaningful as possible. At a time when caregiving demands are at an-all-time high, Hospice Halifax remains a positive impact on hospitals and community resources.

“Throughout the pandemic, we have continued to receive generous donations from our community and supporters,” says Chrissy Merrigan, volunteer coordinator at Hospice Halifax. “However, we have had to cancel numerous fundraising activities and events.”

Hospice has five major sources of revenue: grants, donations and bequests, government funding, fundraising events and social enterprise. It receives half of its funding through the Nova Scotia Health Authority, while the other half is on the hospice to generate from the community.

“We were able to participate in #GivingTuesdayNow, a global day of giving and unity that took place on May 5, as an emergency response to the unprecedented need caused by COVID-19,” says Merrigan. “The day was designed to drive support for communities and nonprofits around the world.”

COVID-19’s impact on Hospice Halifax included limiting the number of people entering the building. As management and staff began working from home, most in-house activities and events have been suspended or delayed. The hospice’s garden was closed to the public and visitors.

Additionally, the number of visitors was limited to one from a previous number of five, and only recently it went back up to two visitors.

“Limiting visitors was the most challenging aspect, as we strive to offer the most compassionate care,” says Merrigan. “We had to balance that with compassion and concern for our community as a whole.”

Over 200 volunteers support Hospice Halifax by donating their time and skills in a variety of roles. They serve in any way they can from board members, professional-service providers, bereavement facilitators, to receptionists, food servers, patient supporters and volunteers at events and at their social entreprises.

“Our volunteers continue to find new and innovative ways to participate in the Hospice Halifax community,” says Merrigan. “Like working with SMU MBA students to generate new ideas for the organization. We are truly missing them.”

One of their social enterprises, The Compassionate Closet, brings in revenues to support the hospice operations. The enterprise was created to promote social, financial and environmental wellbeing. “Not only are we helping to break the fast-fashion cycle, but we're also allowing people to purchase with purpose,” says Merrigan.

The Compassionate Closet was suspended back in mid-March. But it’s currently in the process of reaccepting donations and reopening in June with new safety measures in place to protect staff, volunteers, customers and the greater community.

Another program suspension was the Saturday morning in-house bereavement group.

“Every Saturday morning for the last 10 years, we've been operating a grief support group, consisting of volunteers who have been impacted by the loss of a loved one,” says Neal. “It’s a way to help them with their grief and support recovery.”

The hospice started providing the program virtually on May 23 and over the phone. “Our bereavement counselling and support group are open to all Nova Scotians,” says Merrigan. “They don’t need to have had a loved one in Hospice Halifax to access the group.”

Their biggest events and fundraisers of the year include Feeling the Love, Hats Off Halifax and Hike for Hospice. The hike event is a family-friendly community walk to support the hospice. It’s a gathering of community members and their families to walk together, enjoy a BBQ and entertainment.

“We're located near Point Pleasant Park. So, grieving people who've lost a loved one were going to go for a walk with one another, share stories and be supportive of each other,” says Neal.

“Due to restrictions on crowds, our Hike for Hospice has shifted to a virtual hike with an online platform,” says Merrigan. “On June 27, participants will be able to enjoy our warm-up show online and then will be asked to go for a walk in their own community with their ‘bubble’ family at their own pace.”

Fundraising for the event has started and will continue through June.

Hospice Halifax started in 2001 and later acquired Pryor House from HRM, serving as its operational base. As the first hospice residence in Nova Scotia, the 10-bed facility provides compassionate end of life support for over 150 patients and their loved ones annually.

“There's a lot more attention right now on elder folks in the community, and we think it’s going to have a positive impact,” says Neal. “A lot of attention is being paid to grief and bereavement because of what happened during COVID.”

Hospice Halifax provides services to anyone in the province of Nova Scotia, and it’s not only limited to those who live in the south end or the HRM. Most of the services are free.

“Hospice Halifax is for our community and by our community,” says Merrigan.

Hos
Hospice Halifax

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