Speaking with those who have used the services of a hospice is likely the best way to understand how it benefits not only those approaching end-of-life, but also friends and family.
Helga Cairns has kindly agreed to recount her experience with Huron Shores Hospice, to spread awareness about this essential community resource and the importance of supporting its continued availability to the public.
Helga married her best friend, Wayne Cairns, in 1990. The two enjoyed many years of travelling, camping and living life to the fullest. She describes Wayne as a man who loved to have fun, extremely generous, hardworking and enjoyed the outdoors. The couple was married about fifteen years before finally retiring.
Wayne had suffered with heart and lung issues for many years, but Helga said “we just jumped through every illness and then he would get better… he always seemed to recuperate.”
This time though, was different. About four years ago he began losing weight and had little energy. After multiple medical appointments, he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. They decided to take a holistic approach to his treatment, plus chemotherapy, and had high hopes he would be cured.
Helga said his health really began to decline in April 2021, and he lost his battle with cancer on Aug. 6, 2021, at the age of 74.
The imminent loss of a loved one brings on a wave of emotions – denial, fear, grief. Hoping against hope that Wayne could still recover, she looks back at the weeks leading up to his death as though she was in a daze. She said Wayne was a fighter and “I denied it totally.” She watched her strapping 6’2” husband lose weight, stop eating and falter.
It was during the last few weeks of his life that someone, to this day she still can’t recall who it was, suggested she call Huron Shores Hospice. She picked up the phone and connected with Cathy Herbert, the hospice executive director, and poured out her heart, saying “I don’t know what to do” – and she said (Herbert) said “can you bring him in tomorrow?” Herbert was the compassionate voice, offering the comfort and assistance, which Helga needed. Helga says to this day she feels very close to Herbert, calling her a godsend.
Helga brought Wayne to Huron Shores Hospice the next day, and Herbert was there to meet her at the door when they arrived. A registered nurse, Tara Mainland Tudor, admitted Wayne and settled him into his room, where he stayed until he died, seven days later.
“Cathy was an amazing help to me,” said Helga. “I couldn’t believe how (quickly) things moved then. Up there, everyone is so wonderful and caring and friendly.”
Knowing that Wayne was safe and cared for as he neared the end of his journey, Helga said “I really feel that took a big burden off me.” Knowing Wayne was in good hands at the hospice, she was able to control who came in to visit him; letting him get his much-needed rest while spending quality time with those closest to him.
“The burden is taken off you because it is totally free – our meals, bedding, even toiletries” were arranged for her and Wayne.
“Here at Huron Shores Hospice, we believe that the end of life deserves the same beauty, care and respect as the beginning,” said Herbert. “Our community hospice offers a safe, compassionate and comfortable home-like environment for a person’s final days. At the hospice, family members are also provided practical and emotional support, relieving them of the role of hands-on caregiver and allowing them to remain in their role as partner, daughter, son, friend or family member, in those final days or weeks. We take care of the resident and the family’s needs so they can spend each precious moment making memories and being present for one another. This compassionate support is continued in the community as we offer grief recovery programming to those families we serve in hospice as well as the community as a whole. All our programming is offered at no cost to those in the Huron Kinloss, Kincardine, Saugeen Shores and surrounding areas.”
Since Wayne’s passing, Helga has attended the Grief Recovery Program offered by Huron Shores Hospice. She first attended the small group sessions, and then switched to one-on-one weekly sessions with Liz Dillman, an Advanced Grief Recovery Specialist®. Helga said the recovery courses were “something I had to do to get where I am.”
Helga says if she saw a friend, neighbour or family member experiencing what she went through, she wouldn’t hesitate to tell them to contact Huron Shores Hospice. And she is using her connections in the community to spread the word. As a member of the Community Friendship Club in Point Clark, she has opened the door for a representative of hospice to come out and speak to the club membership at a meeting, and give information about the services offered and how people can show their support.
“It (Huron Shores Hospice) is very important and I’m so glad that we have it and I’m so sorry that we only have two rooms,” said Helga, saying that the location was “so convenient and the volunteers so wonderful.” She has taken her support a step further, sending a sizeable donation to the hospice to assist them with their fundraising efforts.
Huron Shores Hospice operates a two-bed facility in Tiverton Park Manor. It is considered a community hospice, meaning it depends on the generosity of the community and fundraising events to raise the money it needs to cover operational costs.
“We are incredibly grateful for our community and their continued generosity,” said Herbert. “We receive about one-third of our operational budget through the Ministry of Long Term Care, leaving us to fundraise the other two-thirds, about $310 000 each year, of the annual budget. Those who want to help us continue to provide quality end-of-life care and grief support for those in our community can make a financial contribution in several ways: by participating in our fundraising events, making an annual donation, becoming a monthly donor, donating securities or mutual funds, and by leaving a legacy gift to Huron Shores Hospice in their will. All funds raised in support of Huron Shores Hospice remain in our community. Each time someone makes a donation, volunteers their time, shares their story, attends an event, and spreads the word about Huron Shores Hospice, they are helping to ensure compassionate end-of-life care remains in our community, at no cost, close to home, for all of our friends, family and neighbours.”
With pandemic restrictions lifting, Huron Shores Hospice will be hosting 2022 fundraising events in-person, beginning with the Hike for Hospice on May 7. The public is encouraged to register by clicking on the Hike for Hospice tab at www.huronshoreshospice.ca. This year’s hike is a hybrid model, offering a live event at the Davidson Centre or the option to participate virtually. There is no cost to register, but hikers can collect pledges in support of Huron Shores Hospice, with 100 per cent of money raised staying in this community. The morning will include a warm-up, followed by the hike and upon returning to the Davidson Centre at approximately 12:30 p.m., the prizes and the total dollars raised will be announced. The first 200 hikers to arrive the morning of the event will receive a free tee-shirt, provided by NPX Innovation.
Tammy Schneider, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kincardine Independent