Category Archives: Clients & Family

Our Journey with Dementia

They say you learn something new every day. In her final years with us, my mother taught both my wife Katherine and myself something new every time we visited. The journey of dementia is a difficult one, but I think many of our challenges came from our initial inability to understand the language and dance steps of the disease.

I recall those difficult early days when Mom first moved into her new home in long term care. We were paralyzed with fear and discomfort whenever another resident wandered into her room. These folks were clearly confused and very curious about us. It seemed that everywhere we went, we had an entourage. In those early days we had to learn the art of redirection if we wanted to visit Mom without interruption. In time, we came to take these interruptions in stride and to deal with this cast of characters with humour and compassion. Those experiences proved to be only the beginning of a huge learning curve.

Over the years, as Mom declined and communicated less, there would be other lessons to learn. We wanted her to have the best life she could and we knew that companionship was vital to her wellbeing and enjoyment of life. Communication with her was often wordless. We would hold her hand, comb her hair, or listen to music together. We learned through trial and error what would make her calm and what would make her laugh. With close observation of her face and physical reactions, we worked through those days together.

Along with our visits, Mom had daily visits from Dad. Toward the end of her life we asked for and received help from Hospice Northwest. When mom’s volunteer Elsie was introduced to us, it became very clear that her friendship and time with Mom would become an invaluable part of her care. Elsie played a very supportive role in Mom’s last days and we will be forever grateful to her for that.

Anita Sakiyama

Anita Sakiyama

Mom was diagnosed with lung cancer in December 2002 and began chemo in January of 2003. It was at the Cancer Centre that we first heard about Circle of Friends being offered through Hospice Northwest.

Mom immediately embraced the group and going to Circle became her passion. She rarely missed the bi-monthly get-together and feeling a bit sick never stopped her. Family and friends soon learned when “Circle Thursdays” were.

Mom found camaraderie among her new friends. With Circle of Friends everyone was suffering chronic or terminal illnesses, and they drew strength from each other. It made my family happy to see that mom could find such comfort and inner healing with the group.

Where the medical professionals treated mom’s bodily illness with drugs, chemo & radiation; Circle of Friends treated her spirit. It was like her “chicken soup for the soul”. Not only through friendship and sharing but also with relaxation therapies such as reiki, reflexology, meditation, therapeutic touch and the not to be forgotten famous foot massages!

People suffering chronic or terminal illnesses spend a lot of time in hospitals and clinics and it was always nice to have an environment in which to meet and relax with friends.

Another major appeal to me as a family member was to see how truly welcoming the group was to everyone. It felt more like meeting friends for coffee and lunch rather than as a “registered participant” of a group. I think everyone felt that they could share without being judged in any way for what was happening to them.

Lunch was always followed by “circle” time when the talking stick would go around and everyone would have a chance to share whatever they wanted to share be it a frustration, a joy or a pain. If you didn’t want to speak that was ok too. It was understood that what was said in circle stayed in circle.

Sadly, Mom passed away on July 8, 2004. Our family asked that in lieu of flowers people consider donating to the Hospice Northwest Circle of Friends program because it had meant so much to Mom. I would highly recommend attending Circle of Friends to anyone who suffers a chronic or terminal illness or to anyone looking for an opportunity to volunteer.

Sherry Anne Kelly

Sherry Anne Kelly

Our wonderful volunteer Amanda taught us so much. In the nursing home she introduced my Mother and us to musical toys that sang and danced. My Mother received great joy from these and we realize that these stimulate seniors.

It was a great comfort to have the continuity of a volunteer who knew Agnes when she was in good health and followed Agnes through to her death. It was reassuring to have a volunteer to be with Agnes. This provided respite for the family and our volunteer became part of our family team.

We want to thank Hospice Northwest for having such a wonderful program. Agnes had lots of fun, interaction, compassion and care from our volunteer. As a family we received comfort, respite and help with Agnes’ adjustment to institutional life.

David Gilders

David Gilders

I was invited to participate in a small, closely structured grief support group by Hospice Northwest about 4 months after losing my wife. This invitation came at a difficult time in my period of grieving, immediately following the death of Dorothea.

The contacts made with others who had suffered the loss of a loved one, with the group facilitator who had the responsibility of guiding the participants through a six week program, alleviated the sense of loss, which at times was very acute.

I would not hesitate to recommend this particular small group support therapy to any person suffering the trauma of losing a loved one and who feels that there are few, if any persons with whom they can commiserate at a very difficult time in their life.

Andrea Cibulak

Andrea Cibulak

It is wonderful to know that our mom and dad are receiving such compassionate personal care and concern from the Hospice Workers. We will be forever grateful.

Carl Rose

Carl Rose

My wife and I utilized Hospice Northwest services for eleven months when she was suffering with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) at home. We were supported by two volunteers, each of whom came in to our home for a few hours a week to spend time with Carol while family members took a break.

Later, when one of the volunteers was unable to continue for personal reasons, a third volunteer was introduced. The selection and the matching of the volunteers to our needs was really excellent. All three women were retired nurses, very well attuned to Carol’s needs and were empathetic, sensitive and responsive.

We looked forward to their visits and I felt really comfortable leaving Carol in their capable hands. The volunteers were with us until she was completely immobilized and unable to speak at all. When we made the transfer to the hospital in Carol’s final weeks of life, they continued to visit and support us.

Charlotte McMillan

Charlotte McMillan

My Hospice Northwest volunteer has been through many illnesses with me, from insulin reactions, laser surgery to my eyes, fractured ankle, to an amputation.

She has traveled with me to an out-of-town doctor, shared her home with me when I had nowhere to go, and helped to advocate for me with medical staff. I can call on her at any time, even 3:00 am to help drive me home from the emergency department at the hospital.

These are individuals who really do care and have become friends to me when I had no one. Thank you to Hospice Northwest for being there for me through the hard times and the fun times. I have always said that they were God sent to me, for no one else could know how desperately I needed them. Not even myself.

Hats off to my volunteer and the others that have joined the organization, for they are surely needed in our community, not only for individuals like myself, but for others that need their help in these trying times and aging population. A heartfelt thank you to my volunteer and the others who have joined and are yet to come to Hospice Northwest to give selflessly of themselves. I am forever grateful.

Del Osmar

Del Osmar

I would say that Circle of Friends helped me find a semblance of “peace of mind” and courage to carry on since my prognosis was never good and after many chemo sessions and lung surgery and sepsis attacks and being hospitalized for a long period, my time grows ever shorter. As my body fails, my sense of self doesn’t have to; because of some great examples I have seen of fighters who lost their valiant battle but their spirit stayed intact thanks to Circle.