Local Groups Mark Hospice/Palliative Care Day

October 10, 2015

Today [Oct 10] marks World Hospice and Palliative Care Day which is a unified day of action to celebrate and support hospice and palliative care around the world, and local charities Agape House, Friends of Hospice and PALS are noting the importance of the day.

“This year’s focus is “Hidden Lives / Hidden Patients” highlights the patients living in unique conditions that often struggle with access to palliative care including children, LGBTQ individuals, HIV prisoners, soldiers and those living in rural settings,” a statement from the charities said.

“Bermuda is fortunate to be among the countries with well-established hospice care. The Island’s hospice has developed at about the same pace as the international movement to include palliative care in health care systems.

The world wide aims of the day are

  • To share our vision to increase the availability of hospice and palliative care throughout the world by creating opportunities to speak out about the issues
  • To raise awareness and understanding of the needs – medical, social, practical, spiritual – of people living with a life limiting illness and their families
  • To raise funds to support and develop hospice and palliative care services around the world

“Agape House is the only hospice care facility on island, owned and operated by the Bermuda Hospitals Board. The hospice is supported financially and therapeutically by Friends of Hospice.

“Agape House is also supported by PALS with their nurses providing support to PALS patients who are admitted to Agape House through visits; working with family members to help them through the emotional challenges that are part of the journey.

“Agape House, which takes its name from a Greek word for “unconditional love”, was co-founded in 1991 with Hilary Soares, RN, MBE and Russ Ford, RN. Initially, Agape House primarily served patients with AIDS, but advances in prevention and treatment reduced the need to serve that patient group.

“Today, Agape House cares for patients with a broad range of life-limiting illnesses, taking a holistic approach to patient care and following international best practices.

Dr. Sharon Alikhani, Lead Physician for Agape House stated: “Agape House is open to anyone, of any age who needs palliative care, which is specialized medical care that focuses on providing patients with relief from the symptoms, pain and stress of a serious life-limiting illness.

“Patients who need palliative care may have heart, lung, liver, kidney, brain or motor neuron diseases, or cancer or may simply be very frail elderly. Our staff consider it a privilege to work at Agape and nurture the patients and their families.”

“Agape House aims to provide high quality specialist hospice and palliative care that is tailored as far as possible to the individual needs of the patients. Such care seeks to be holistic in nature, acknowledging that patients facing a life-limiting illness have not only physical symptoms but also emotional, spiritual and social needs.

“A team of qualified caregivers do all that they can to involve patients in decisions about their care, to maintain privacy and dignity in providing that care, and to respect patients individual rights and religious and cultural beliefs.

“Friends of Hospice enables Agape House to provide outstanding hospice care, by providing a full-time chef and private kitchen, bereavement counseling , art therapy, complementary therapies, such as massage and Reiki as well as Skype and Internet access for every hospice bed.

“The organization also offers a Day Hospice once a week for people who do not need full-time care. It provides volunteer companions, pet therapy, supports further education for Agape House staff and buys equipment.

“Agape House is also well supported by volunteers who provide assistance with transportation, meal service – reception duties outside normal work hours – gardening and special events.

Cathy Belvedere, Executive Director of Friends of Hospice, said, “Friends of Hospice Board, staff and volunteers are privileged to continue to support the important work.

“Over the years, many people, companies and organizations have generously supported Friends of Hospice with donations and by giving their time. We are grateful to each and every one who has helped to ensure that an excellent standard of hospice care is available to the Bermuda community.”

PALS, also founded by Hilary Soares provides an integral support system to cancer patients in Bermuda.

Karen Dyer, Executive Director said “We have 6 nursing staff who provide the necessary support to cancer patients in their homes; in hospital and at Agape House. All our services are provided free of charge, with the generous donations of both the corporate sector and the community who support our events.”

“PALS and Friends of Hospice jointly sponsor an annual 12 session Bereavement group. In addition the two charities collaborate on an annual volunteer training entitled Companioning the Dying starting on November 2nd. Due to a waiting list from the last course, this training will be open to those on the wait list first. If spaces are available, information will be forthcoming.

“Bermuda’s demand for hospice care is increasing due to the island’s aging population, and it is anticipated that in the near future, the charming cottage used by Agape House will have to be replaced. Bermuda will need a purpose-built facility that can enable a growing number of patients and their families to experience the end of life in an environment of dignity, peace, personalized care and comfort.

“Agape House, Friends of Hospice and PALS share the ethos of the late Dame Cecily Saunders, the founder of the modern hospice movement, “You matter because you are you. You matter to the last moment of your life, and we will do all we can to help you not only to die peacefully, but also to live until you die.”

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