June 20th, 2024

Local organization plans for palliative care hospice

By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on October 25, 2022.

Herald photo by Alejandra Pulido-Guzman Lenore Beyer, Celeste Ment and Kinga Zentner are working to open a stand-alone residential hospice and palliative care facility.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDapulido@lethbridgeherald.com

A local not-for-profit charitable organization, Guided Journeys Foundation, is looking to develop the first stand alone residential hospice and palliative care centre in Lethbridge and southern Alberta.

In order to be able to offer their programs and services at no cost to the community, Guided Journeys require help from everyone who can offer it.

They had their first fundraising event in June, their first annual “Walk to Remember” around Henderson Lake for families to honour and remember a loved one that has passed.

They will be having this walk annually in May moving forward, as May is Hospice and Palliative Care Awareness Month.

Their second and biggest fundraising event will be their inaugural Frost and Flare Gala at the Norland Historic Estate on Nov. 26 at 5 p.m. as the beginning of their commitment to the community and those who seek guidance on their end of life journey.

President and founder of Guided Journeys, Kinga Zentner, said that coming from a funeral directing and embalming background got her interested in doing more for the families and taking care of them before that final step and therefore hospice and palliative care was the logical transition.

“For me it felt unfinished, because I wanted to take a step back and get support where people are passing away and making sure that their whole death experience, from the time of passing to the time of the funeral and the aftercare, that they’re on the right journey and properly taken care of,” said Zentner.

She said a big reason to start this project was also to get people in touch with death and passing, as it is a subject that people avoid in society and don’t like to talk about, but it is something that is inevitable and happens to all of us.

“We’re all on the same page on that, so we just really wanted to bring back the meaning of life and the support that our community needs in walking people to their end of life journey,” said Zentner.

She said that another big drive was to take the burden off families, direct them as to what happens next and give them the proper guidance.

“The level of patient care that we want to provide, and for the families as well, is going to be second to none,” said Zentner.

She said they will be focusing on end of life care for both patients and families alike.

Zentner founded Guided Journeys in collaboration with a group of individuals that share her vision for compassion and care for those at the end of life and their families. One of them is palliative care nurse Celeste Ment, whom Zentner heard about multiple times while working as a funeral director.

“When I was serving families at the funeral home, people that were looked after by Celeste prior to their loved one passing, just had these amazing reviews of their experience to what it was like working and having them under the care of Celeste, and I was like ‘I need to meet her’,” said Zentner.

She said that after hearing so many stories, she wanted to make sure more families had the same or even better experience during their loved one’s final moments. And at that point she realized how badly a hospice with a home feeling was needed.

“We connected and formulated this ‘ginormous’ plan to have a community run, 10-bedroom hospice,” said Zentner.

Ment, who has been a palliative care nurse, said their goal is to educate people around what palliative care is, as people immediately think about death as just the person who is dying.

“It’s much more than that. It’s specialized care provided to anybody with a life-limiting illness, so that requires a lot of education to let people know not to be afraid of talking about palliative care and not to be afraid of the dying process,” said Ment.

She said at this point about 60 per cent of people are dying in the hospital with limited access to their families and in a controlled environment.

“We can provide a safe, comforting, culturally diverse facility for everybody that’s entitled to that quality in the end-of-life care,” said Ment.

She said typically nurses are trained to do everything to preserve life, but their goal will be to improve the quality of life until the end of life while caring and preparing their families through that journey.

“In a hospital a patient is still within an institution and it’s really hard for larger families to be with their loved one or to care for their loved one while in there,” said Ment.

She said they certainly have medical support, but it’s the support of the family that they are more focused on in providing that care for the family not just the patient.

“Here in southern Alberta there is not a hospice. We do have a palliative care unit that is a strong unit, so this is not going to take the place of that unit, but it gives families another option to provide a home-like environment, where the family can be present with their loved ones through the whole process,” said Ment.

She said they want family members to become just that, instead of being caregivers until the end.

“They no longer have to be caregivers, so they are able to process this whole journey much better, better prepared for it and we provide support after, so there’s the advantage of having a hospice,” said Ment.

Lenore Beyer, who will be part of the palliative care team at Guided Journeys, said that even though we have multiple institutions in southern Alberta like hospitals and long term care facilities, there is a need for facilities where people can go in peace and with the comfort of a home feeling.

“What we need is a comfort countryside if you will, where people can go for walks, where they can feel that they’re comfortable at home, but more than anything that it’s peaceful,” said Beyer.

She said there will be a home feel in each room, where the patients can have their own pillows, blankets and objects that may offer comfort and the home-like feel.

“You would never be allowed to have your own pillow in the hospital, all the comforts of home but not at home and it allows people to pass with some dignity and not in an institution where you’ve just had somebody else that has passed,” said Beyer.

Zentner said that for the families, there will be areas where they can relax, make some food and even a playground for children so all members of the family have a place to unwind while caring for their loved one at the end of their journey.

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Commendable, I wish yoiu great success and support from the Community AND all levels of Government [ come on, step up ladies and gentlemen ].