Huron Shores Hospice Hike for Hospice on May 12



By Barb McKay


When June Slesser’s husband, Floyd Steen, was diagnosed with stage four cancer a year and a half ago the idea of hospice care never crossed her mind.


“I didn’t even know what hospice was,” she said when she sat down with The Independent last week to talk about end-of-life care.


Steen’s health declined quickly following his diagnosis in August 2016. He was admitted to Kincardine hospital in order to receive nursing care and pain management, and remained there for three weeks.


“I was in such denial,” Slesser said. “I thought we’d get his meds figured out and we would come home. He wanted to come home.”


But Steen had reached a point where he needed around-the-clock care. Slesser spent long days, and some nights, by his bedside. Her daughter Jody and Stein’s son Tim and daughter Tracey came in to relieve her when they could, but she was exhausted and stressed.


Steen’s daughter-in-law Emmi, as fortune would have it, was involved with Hospice Wellington in Guelph and suggested moving him there. As soon as her husband moved into a hospice suite, Slesser said, everything changed.


“It only took a day for them to get him comfortable. I could be there for comfort and the kids could come home from school and visit with grandpa.”


Slesser said the hospice staff was second to none.


“They were there as much for me and Floyd’s family as they were for Floyd. They took the most difficult situation and took the pressure off of us...The reality had sunk in that he wasn’t coming home, but I knew he was getting the best care.”


Steen remained as a resident of the hospice for seven days before he passed away.


When the Huron Shores Hospice suite opened at Tiverton Park Manor last month, Slesser took the training to become a comfort volunteer. After her overwhelmingly positive experience with hospice care, she wanted to pay it forward.


“I am so grateful that we have an option here now for someone who doesn’t have family support, or even if you do,” she said. “It is exhausting mentally and physically (to be a caregiver). This will help a lot of people.”


The one-bed Huron Shores Hospice suite is being used and a resident is benefitting from 24-hour care in a homelike setting. A PSW and a nurse provide professional care and comfort care volunteers work in four-hour shifts. So far, more than 30 volunteers have received training through the Local Health Initiative Network. Volunteers do as much or as little as needed by residents and their families, whether it be reading a book to a resident, making a cup of tea or just being in the suite to give family members a break.


Huron Shores Hospice has received no government funding to cover its start up and operating costs and has relied on community fundraising and private donations. The cost to operate the one-bed suite is $180,000 annually.


The second annual Hike for Hospice will be held May 12 at the Davidson Centre. Last year’s hike saw 60 people participate and raised more than $12,000. This year, the hospice committee aims to raise $15,000.


Registration begins at 9:30 a.m. followed by a warm-up at 10 a.m. The walk will get underway at 10:30 a.m. Participants can walk the trails or the outdoor track. In the event of rain, the walk will take place on the indoor walking track. The Kincardine and District Lions Club will barbeque lunch following the walk which can be purchased with a donation. There will be face painting and other activities for children.


Huron Shores Hospice chair Cheryl Cottrill said the hospice suite would never have opened without the support of the community. She said every donation received has had a story behind it – people whose loved ones have experienced great care in hospice or wished they could have had the option of hospice care.


“This community has stepped up in a big way to make this happen and they have shown that they have great compassion and recognized there was a gap that needed to be filled,” Cottrill said.


Funds raised from the Hike for Hospice will go to third year operating costs of the suite.


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