Helene Byrnes_Hospice PSW.jpg

“On June 6, our Family will Hike for Hospice”

On Nov 28, 2019, Dad had a seizure. It was a turning point for our family.

As Dutch immigrants, he and our mother had raised five children on a dairy farm near Kinkora. He was a kind, gentle and faithful man who set a good example for having a strong work ethic, being honest, instilling the importance of family, and volunteering.

Since our father’s diagnosis earlier in the month with end-stage lung disease, our family supported our parents during the day, leaving Mom on her own at night with him in their apartment at Anne Hathaway Residence. She was not sleeping well, fearful of his oxygen tube getting displaced.

The seizure further added to Mom’s worries. She was frightened it might happen again when she was alone with him or worse, that she might not want to continue living in their new home with the memory of Dad dying in his chair; a home they had lived in for two years and where they had developed many new friendships.

From that night on, our family provided 24-hour care for our parents with some community supports.
Yet even though we had a large family, we were quickly overwhelmed. The decision was made to refer Dad to Rotary Hospice.

By the time he moved in two weeks later, we were exhausted.

Walking through the front doors at Rotary Hospice, the heavy weight of responsibilities was lifted off our shoulders.

Our family could go back to being the wife and children to Dad and not be responsible for his personal care such as toileting and dressing; giving Dad back the dignity he so deserved. It also meant we were able to spend quality time with Dad, sharing stories, praying with him, and creating new memories!
The first night in the Hospice, I slept over on the pull-out couch in Dad’s room to make sure he was adjusting to the new surroundings. We had nothing to fear; he was in good hands.

Up until this point, my siblings had not visited a hospice and were not sure what to expect. They appreciated the peaceful, welcoming atmosphere and the genuine kindness shown by the staff and volunteers.

Dad spent six weeks at Rotary Hospice. Not only was he well cared for, so was our entire family.
The staff and volunteers were very personal and sensitive to our needs and often spent time with us providing emotional support. Coffee/tea and a sweet treat or a hot bowl of soup were available anytime of the day. Mom usually had an afternoon nap in a reclining chair at dad’s bedside and she was often covered with a warm blanket brought in by a volunteer as she slept. Dad was offered homemade meals (on his schedule) when he was awake. I remember a staff member taking Dad’s breakfast order while kneeling on the floor so that she was at eye level with him as he lay in bed on his side.

On January 21, 2020 Dad suffered a stroke and died peacefully five hours later with his family at his bedside.

Leaving Rotary Hospice for the last time, we were touched by the respect shown for our Dad and our family when the staff and volunteers formed an honour guard. It was an emotional moment when, as part of the ceremony, Mom lit a floating candle in his honour as a final gesture of farewell.

Our parents were early supporters of Rotary Hospice; as my Dad once said, ‘we may all end up there one day’. On Sunday, June 6 our family will participate in Hike for Hospice in memory of Dad – and so that others may experience the same end-of-life quality experience our family was so grateful to receive.

As shared by Dianne Parr (nee Nyenhuis). Daughter, community hospice volunteer.