Community discusses hospice space

·3 min read

Community engagement for the new Wheatland Lodge continues, with the latest session focusing on the building’s hospice space.

The new building is being created through a partnership between Wheatland Housing Management Body (WHMB) and Wheatland and Area Hospice Society (WAHS), which is working to provide dedicated hospice care spaces for palliative care.

“We don’t have that; we’re doing that work in people’s homes right now,” said Barry Nephin, director of WAHS’s building committee. “What we’re trying to provide is a hospice for community members that serves all their needs, for themselves and their families.”

Currently, the society is looking to provide two to three beds in the building, but may expand this number, depending on fundraising and possible funding from the provincial government, he said.

Berry Architecture + Associates, the firm responsible for the building’s design, has been conducting engagement sessions to ensure their process is driven by the views of community members and stakeholders. The fourth session, held Oct. 29, focused on hearing opinions about how these hospice spaces might be designed.

“Even though people stay in hospice for a short period of time, it’s important to foster relationships to ensure family and friends have the right support they need when dealing with imminent death of a loved one,” said Isaac Martinez, architect.

During the session, potential design elements and amenities of the hospice rooms were discussed.

One design aspect discussed was that rooms should be located on the ground floor, with full-length windows, so hospice residences could see outside while lying in bed. A suggestion was also made that ground-level hospice rooms could include exterior access doors so patients could be transported outside to the garden.

Other aspects of the rooms suggested included the provision of a whiteboard to write messages, soft and warm lighting, warm colours, comfortable furnishings and providing privacy. Members of the society board have been visiting hospice spaces across Alberta and even in Europe to study how some of these considerations are implemented, said Nephin.

The ability for family and friends to stay overnight in the suites was also brought forward, including a place to sleep, and providing some kitchen amenities to allow cooking or meal preparation in the suites.

The degree to which the hospice would be connected to the lodge was also discussed.

Connecting the two facilities provides opportunities for each organization to save costs, said Nephin. “We see the synergies going beyond snow removal and parking spaces. We see maintenance staff, heating, cooking, all those things as being potentially shared.”

But there is a need for some degree of separation between the two facilities.

During the session, some participants, including care providers, highlighted a need for privacy among the loved ones of palliative care patients, which could be achieved through separate entrances.

The feedback garnered from the engagement session will ensure the building’s design is community driven, said Nephin. “We really have tried to go in there with no preconceived notions as far as what we want. We really want it to be an open and transparent process, and have everybody be involved and feel good about the outcome.”

Following the engagement process, members from each building committee (WAHS and WHMB each have a committee) will meet with Berry Architecture to start applying feedback received into the design. After this process, there will be another set of group engagement where aspects of the design, such as potential room and floor plans, will be discussed.

“It’s an evolving process,” said Nephin.

Nephin, who founded and manages Aquila Homes operating in Strathmore, will use his building acumen to help ensure the building is high-quality. “We want to have a well-built structure and make sure what we’re building is going to have longevity to it, while serving multiple generations of needs.”

Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times