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Designing an end-of-life care environment that feels like home

woman holding up a framed photo

When Marjorie Parker’s husband Ted was admitted to the Palliative Care Unit at Parkwood Institute, she knew that caring for him would be a challenge. Ted was unable to hear and beginning to show signs of dementia. He would sleep uninterrupted for days at a time and was not particularly responsive to the nurses who cared for him while he was awake.

As a navy veteran and professional engineer, Ted wanted to do everything on his own. He was not used to people fussing over him and would get frustrated because he couldn’t hear what the nurses were saying most of the time.

Marjorie prepared for Ted’s health to decline, but to her surprise, his health improved. One of the nurses began to communicate with Ted using simple hand gestures and he started to respond. Ted’s attitude slowly began to change for the better.

“There’s something about those nurses and volunteers in that unit which makes me think that they’ve been hand-picked,” says Marjorie. “I’ve never met staff who are so willing to go the extra mile. It really encourages you to give back.”

Marjorie was amazed at the sense of community she felt at Parkwood Institute. She became close friends with the daughter of one of the residents living on the unit. Though she was much younger than Marjorie, the two were never at a loss for words. She continued to visit Marjorie even after her father passed on.

When Ted passed away in September, Marjorie received an outpouring of support from the people she met during her husband’s end-of-life journey. Several of them even attended Ted’s funeral. “It was just amazing,” says Marjorie. “They were as caring as I hoped I was.”

Hoping to harness the sense of community felt by those like Marjorie, St. Joseph’s Health Care Foundation is reaching out to donors to support the renovation and expansion of the Palliative Care Unit at Parkwood Institute. The expansion project will create several multi-use spaces for residents to share with their families, including a lounge with a modern family-style kitchen and a living room area with comfortable sofas and a television. For quieter moments, there will also be a private family lounge with comfortable seating and a piano.

Once complete, the new space will create 18 private rooms and two-semi-private rooms that will enable excellent care while maintaining the feel of home. Each room will be furnished with specialty pressure-reducing mattresses and sleeper chairs for loved ones to stay overnight.

Palliative care plays a pivotal role for those nearing the end-of-life and Parkwood Institute is proud to offer compassionate care to people like Marjorie and her husband Ted. With your support, St. Joseph’s continues to improve specialized care and support to patients and their families.

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