By Cecilia Nasmith
If “West Northumberland Hospice Care Centre” sounds like a mouthful, what about a simpler name, a warmer name, a friendlier name?
What about "Ed's Place"?
That is how the new facility will be known, following the gift of $1.5-million to its capital campaign by Ed and Diane Lorenz.
This follows on the heels of last month's announcement of a $1-million gift from Brian and Kym Read. The facility's patient-care wing will be named after their family.
This week's announcement was a smash surprise ending to Tuesday's launch of the fundraising campaign at the Baltimore Community Centre – or, as campaign co-chairs Gord and Patti Ley put it, the end of the “quiet campaign” during which quiet targeted strategic approaches have been made behind the scenes. The Read and Lorenz donations are among the most spectacular of their results, and they have commitments of an additional $465,000 from the West Northumberland municipalities and Alderville First Nation.
As a way of walking the talk (or, as Gord Ley phrased it, putting your money where your mouth is), the campaign cabinet and other associated volunteers have pledged a total of $1.6-million collectively.
The Baltimore gathering heard Community Care Northumberland executive director Trish Baird remind them that it was only a year ago that Minister of Health Eric Hoskins visited them to let them know that their expression of interest in a residential hospice for West Northumberland had been successful to the tune of a $1.2-million boost from the province. It was an important step forward for a community where hospice services have been offered in people's homes for some 30 years.
As a community whose population is aging, Gord Ley said, it couldn't get this news at a better time.
As warden, Hamilton Township Mayor Mark Lovshin brought greetings from Northumberland County and applauded the group for going so far toward making the project a reality in just one year.
“Awesome job!” Lovshin declared.
“It speaks to the true passion and commitment of this team, as well as the support that exists in our community for this vital initiative. It will provide more alternatives to access compassionate end-of-life care from dedicated staff and volunteers.”
It is estimated that 80 people each year will benefit from this facility, he said, and perhaps another 300 will benefit from the hroader range of hospice programming.
“It will have a meaningful impact on our community, offering dignity and care for people facing a terminal diagnosis, and their families,” Lovshin said.
Representing Northumberland Hills Hospital, board chair Beth Selby said this service is a wonderful complement to the hospital's own palliative-care services, and that they have valued their collaboration with the hospice team.
Selby echoed remarks that this need is growing. The 335 patients who received palliatve care over the hospital's 2017-2018 fiscal year represent a 16% increase over the previous two years. With the hospice-palliative care services offered by Community Care Northumberland, many have been able to end their days at home. A residential hospice offers still another alternative.
The Leys have been involved in many capital campaigns over the years – YMCA Northumberland, Northumberland Hills Hospital, Cobourg Community Centre – but Gord Ley pointed out that this is the first project that is not undertaken to replace something already in the community.
“It's a new building, a new facility, a new service,” he said.
Building committee head Stewart Richardson said the generous support of the province and the community (along with the slope of the Ontario Street property they have acquired) has inspired them to go with a two-storey building whose first floor will have 10 beds instead of six. The reconfiguration has also shrunk the building's footprint by 20%, leaving more room for walkways, patios and gardens.
The focus of the main floor will be patient care, along with family and care giver comforts – reception, dining room, living room, children's area, large kitchen, spiritual room, Richardson listed, all with large sunny windows and a very homelike (as opposed to institutional) feel while still adhering to the Hospice Association standards.
Each bedroom will have a French balcony, reclining chair and a cupboard beside the bed which contains a Murphy bed – allowing a loved one to remain overnight right beside the patient.
Upstairs, there will be a hospice-education support centre with meeting room and room for the interdisciplinary hospice-services team.
As to the impact such a facility can make, Patti Ley introduced Doug McCann to share the story of the hospice that made such a difference to him and his late wife Brenda when they lived in Burlington years ago.
The diagnosis turns your life upside-down on all levels, McCann said. And as life moves on from there, your world shrinks – in their case, the McCanns were living their life in two rooms, the family room and the kitchen. It was cramped, and friends began to visit less and less, not knowing what to expect.
The day came when he could no longer transfer his wife to a chair or commode, and their nurse suggested a hospice. She even arranged an ambulance for transportation.
“Brenda knew and I knew that that was the last day she was going to be in our home and enjoy the life we had enjoyed together in our family home,” McCann said.
They entered their new home with some trepidation, but got quite a welcome. Thir nurse personally greeted them and, inside the doors, every staff member introduced him- or herself by name to Brenda and asked if they could do anything for her.
“Quite frankly, she felt like a rock star,” he recallrd.
“Our frowns and sorrow turned to excitement, bccause we were going to someplace really cool.”
Brenda hadn't had a real bath for so long, and admitted a wish for one. She was told she was booked into the whirlpool bath the following morning.
“Her whole demeanour changed. She was starting to get brighter,” he said.
“The other thing I noticed was how incredibly tired I was. This had taken a toll on me. After I caught up on my sleep, my role changed from being a care giver to husband, which I hadn't been for a long time.”
The bright, welcoming hospice attracted more friends and family members to visit in a homey place where they could sit comfortably and enjoy a visit.
They requested a private family dinner and, as a result, enjoyed a feast for eight at no cost – and a walk in the beautiful garden afterwards.
“We are all going to die someday, but we are afraid of death, particularly if you have a disease that is very painful. The palliative-care doctors that served this hospice sat down with Brenda and myself and reassured her she would never be uncomfortable during her stay there – they have access to drugs and other things that regular doctors don't, and they did make her comfortable.”
McCann was also able to stay on-site in a comfortable bed near the end. He was there when Brenda passed on.
“She passed with dignity, and I got to experience that with her, which is very precious.”
Death doesn't end the story, he added. The hospice was very supportive as he made arrangements. And about three months later, when all the arrangements and paperwork were done and life seemed to have gone down a dark hole, they helpd him move forward with their bereavement programming.
Ed and Diane Lorenz have a story of their own, with 50 years in the Cobourg area and a very successful business, Lorenz Conveying Products. Ed is a past president and 30-year member of the Rotary Club of Cobourg, and his wife just collected her 50-year Beta Sigma Phi sorority pin (and was a member of the Cobourg and District Hospital board for a decade, with a stint as chair).
“Ed and I believe that people deserve to die with dignity, no matter what walk of life they come from,” she said.
“Death is not always happy or easy. Hospice care is good for the present and future generations – it may even help change the attitudes towards death and dying.”
Gord Ley said their presentations to this point have touched two kinds of people - those who really don't know what a hospice is and those who are grateful for all a hospice meant to a loved one in the past at the most difficult and vulnerable moments of their lives.
After their presentation, the people in the first group got a deeper understanding of this fact, and often felt sad because loved ones they had lost had not been able to have the blessing of a hospice.
“It's truly the ultimate gift,” he said.
“Now that will be available locally to offer individuals and their families dignity, reassurance and respect during their end-of-life care.”
Plans are in place for the project to go to construction-tender-and-award in August and September. An actual award of contract is expected in October, and construction can begin with an eye to completion next summer.
It only remains to raise the money. With a total of $8.1-million raised and committed so far, that's a giant step toward Gord Ley's $9,300,000 campaign goal.
A few naming opportunities still remain, with suggested donations of $250,000 to $300,000, and two fall fundraisers were announced.
Tim Hortons outlets in Cobourg, Port Hope and Colborne have announced this project as their annual Smile Cookie Day beneficiary in September. And a family-friendly fundraiser called Touch A Truck is planned Oct. 13 in Port Hope (details to come)..
And speaking of details, you can learn more about the Ed's Place project at a town-hall meeting June 14 from 4 to 7 p.m. in the Hoskin Room at the HTM Building, 1185 Elgin St. W. in Cobourg.