With compassion comes care. With care comes love and support. And it is with this support and the will to improve lives that the Lacombe Palliative Care Society began a mere 20-years-ago.
Supporters and volunteers gathered on Tuesday night at the St. Andrew’s United Church hall to mark the Lacombe Palliative Care Society’s 20th anniversary.
Chairperson Edie Biggelaar provided the group with history of how the organization began, how it has grown and where it will hopefully go in the future.
Twenty years ago some of the nurses at the Lacombe Hospital lost their jobs, but something good was birthed out of the bad situation, said Biggelaar.
“Audrey Erikson, being one of those nurses who lost her position, had a vision, saw a need and along with her pastoral care commitment decided it was time to get a Palliative Care Society started,” said Biggelaar.
On winterous January night, around 10 nurses gathered and formed what is known as the Lacombe Palliative Care Society.
The group has the mission to compassionately care for the terminally ill and provide care locally in Lacombe, whether it is in the palliative care suites in the hospital, through homecare or hospice.
Palliative care affirms life and acknowledges dying as a natural process. It also emphasizes the management and control of pain, focuses on the quality of life as defined by the one who is dying or their family and offers resources and information to help the family cope during the illness and bereavement.
The Society held their first Day of Remembrance on Dec. 1st, 1995, as a service for families who were going through the first Christmas without their loved ones.
Slowly but surely, volunteers were gathered up and in 1998, the group began fundraising to purchase equipment and items to create the first palliative care suite in the Lacombe Hospital.
In 1999, the group decided to create a second palliative care suite within the hospital, planning to construct both suites in conjunction of the hospital renovations.
“The project included enhancing the main courtyard and front entrance to the hospital,” explained Biggelaar. “The Society also proposed to install doors from the suites into the renovated courtyard and subsequently spent $4,770 for patio work outside the palliative suites.”
Soon the vision was a reality and both suites came to be within the hospital. The group also aims to develop a palliative care suite within the long-term care unit in the hospital.
“As a result of our efforts, the Society now has beautiful suites that are easy for staff to work in and have a home feeling for patients and families,” said Biggelaar. “We have furnished and stocked these suites for a home away from home. We also support homecare with their needs to enable patients to stay at home for as long as possible, or for the end of life, providing such equipment as portable beds and pain pumps. The Society has also assisted members to attend workshops and conferences to further their education.”
Biggelaar stated although the organization has been in existence for 20 years, their work has only just begun.
“We all know that we will die at some point, but most people like not to think about it,” she said. “Unfortunately, that also seems to be the case with many in the healthcare system. Education and awareness of quality palliative care still needs to be a high priority.”
Cancer survivor Kimberly Rideout, from Red Deer, shared her journey from cancer diagnosis to empowerment from love, friends and family.
“I focus on one fact — I am one of the lucky ones because I am here,” said Rideout.
Rideout was diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago and underwent multiple rounds of chemotherapy, radiation and many procedures.
“So how did I get through it?” asked Rideout. “What kept me going day after day as my hair fell out and I got sicker each day and my bones ached? The number one person that got me through that time was my husband.”
Rideout indicated it was not only her husband but her daughters, friends and the many people in her life that kept her positive and spurred her on to keep fighting.
“Family, friends and love were so huge in my fight against breast cancer,” she said. “But what else kept me going? One of the biggest factors for me was attitude and the ability to laugh. Life is so much easier when you are smiling.”
Rideout encouraged the attendees to show they care about others each day and to continue to embrace what is good in life.
For more information about the Lacombe Palliative Care Society contact home care at 403-782-6535 or the Lacombe Hospital at 403-782-3336.