fsjpcs 15 years 2012 1

The Palliative Care Society celebrated their 15th anniversary with Mayor Lori Ackerman and Councillor Bruce Christensen.

Death is something we all inevitably have to face. For some it happens instantly, while others suffer with illness for months and even years.

For most, it's not an easy thing.

The Fort St. John Palliative Care Society has been helping people through their darkest days and hours for the past 15 years.

They celebrated their anniversary by handing out cake at the Totem Mall on Saturday afternoon.

"Basically, we are a group of volunteers that have been trained in palliative situations, with people who are terminally ill, so the outcome is not good for them," said Cheryl Deakin, the Chair of the Fort St. John Palliative Care Society.

"What we do is we would get a call from somebody and we can go either to the hospital, or we can go to their home and we just sit with them so that their families can get a break," Deakin said. "Because at that time of their lives, it's pretty scary and it can be overwhelming for families."

Deakin has been involved for approximately eight years.

"I heard an announcement on the radio, they were looking for volunteers to do the training session," she said. "It was something that I've always liked, to be around seniors, and I thought, well, a lot of people who are sick are seniors, so I thought why not?

"It's been really good," she continued. "It's been a passion of mine for a long, long time; it's just nice to be able to help people."

She met her husband through volunteering with the Palliative Care Society.

"I took care of his first wife many, many years ago and got to know the family really well and kept in touch, so I'd have to say that was one of my good experiences," Deakin said.

The society currently has between 15 and 20 active volunteers, but Deakin said they definitely need more.

"Most of them work during the day; that makes it really hard to schedule," she said.

Volunteers make a huge difference at the end of a person's life.

"We sit with them; we could read to them; we could give them a hand massage or a foot massage," she explained. "Basically, we just sit and listen if they want to talk.

"Lots of times it's really hard for them to talk to their families because that's too close to home," she continued. "Being able to talk to somebody that they really don't know helps them."

She noted that a volunteer meets a family and sits with them as well.

"I've talked to a lot of volunteers, and they're really scared because you don't know what you're going to come up against," Deakin said. "After leaving the session, however, it's rewarding.

"It can be - I don't know if it sounds kind of funny to say - but it makes you feel good to know you're helping somebody," she said.

Though it's a rewarding experience, it's not for everyone, Deakin cautioned.

"I think you just need to be prepared for it," she said.

"We normally don't get called until the very end," she continued. "We might have one visit, two visits before, so you really don't get to know anybody, and they're usually in a bad state when you do get to go."

Training is mandatory for all volunteers.

We have lots of grief counselling and just talk about anything to do with palliative care; any kind of situation you could come into; how to deal with families, those kinds of things."

They charge a $50 fee, but 50 per cent of that is reimbursed after the training is complete.

"It's basically just the cost to cover the paper," she said. "Even if you never, ever used it (the training), it's just good for you."

They have a range of volunteers.

"One of our youngest was 25ish, and then up to seniors; we have both male and female because lots of times we'll have male clients, and it's just easier for them to have a male to visit," she said.

As the Palliative Care Society looks to the future, Deakin said they're trying to educate more people.

"We want to let them be aware that we're here and we want to help," she said.

"We need more volunteers of course," she said. "We're working on revamping everything right now with the group; I've got a really good group of volunteers that are really wanting to move forward, and kind of make it more available for people."

In an effort to raise money for training and education materials, supplies for the palliative care kitchen, furnishing two palliative care rooms at the hospital and more, the Palliative Care Society is hosting a fundraising in May.

The Hike for Hospice Fundraiser kicks off National Hospice Palliative Care Week on Sunday, May 6.

To pick up a pledge sheet, volunteer or to donate any money, please call 250-793-8147, or drop by the office in the Lutheran Care Home at 9812 108 Ave.

PHOTO AND ARTICLE COURTESY: Katelin Dean, Alaska Highway News


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