Planning your future healthcare takes teamwork – who’s on your team?

When you think about teamwork, what comes to mind?

Working together toward a shared vision.

Keeping communication open and honest.

Having leadership and guidance to know what to do.

We don’t always think about our health as involving teamwork, but it does! We need those near and dear to us, who are present during our appointments, and who care for us at home when we’re not well. We need different healthcare providers with their own expertise that informs what care we receive. This teamwork requires us to communicate and coordinate with many different people.

But what happens when we can’t speak for ourselves? Someone else has to lead the talking, coordinating and decision-making. If that happens, our team needs to carry on without our direction, based on their best guesses of what they think we want and need.

That’s where advance care planning comes in—the process of reflecting on and discussing our wishes for care with our team before that day comes when we can’t tell them what we want. It also involves deciding on someone who will take the lead in making decisions for us if we can’t speak for ourselves—our Substitute Decision Maker. Like any good team, it’s about strong communication and planning to get everyone on the same page ahead of time.

The question is: who is on your team and what vision for your care do you want to share with them?

This April 16th is National Advance Care Planning Day, the perfect time to assemble your team and tell them your plan. Every team has a plan that provides direction—sport teams have their playbooks, choirs have their sheet music, organizations have their workplans. You can share any stories of the conversations you have had on social media with the hashtags #TeamSupport and #ACPDay2018.

Fort St John & District Palliative Care Society is proud to celebrate National ACP Day on April 16th and we hope that you will participate with us by sharing resources and having these important conversations with your team. If you go to, you can learn more about advance care planning and find free downloadable resources such as workbooks, videos, wallet cards and conversation starters. The website is run by the Advance Care Planning in Canada “Speak Up” initiative, dedicated to helping all Canadians start planning for their future care. You can find information about the different provincial/territorial legal requirements for advance care planning and designating substitute decision makers. There are also toolkits available for healthcare organizations and health professionals who wish to mark National Advance Care Planning Day with an event or activity.

The Fort St John and District Palliatiative Care Society would like to thank all the folks that showed their support and generously donated at the North Peace and Area Fall Fair.

These are the winners of the baskets:

Kids basket: Ann Grover

Ladies Basket : Tamara Clarke

Barbecue basket: Austin Tallman

We look forward to participating again next year!

fsj palliative care 5b

It's not easy trying to find volunteers willing to sity by those in their dying days. "It's tough, " admits Kathleen Merk of the Fort St. John and District Palliative Care Society. 

It's tough, and it also needs training. In the photo above, Bruce Christensen of the Fort St. John Elks Lodge #288 hands FSJ Palliative Care Society Chair Randy Merk a cheque for the group's efforts. The funds will help put volunteers through a 20 hour course to learn how to spend time with and comfort those in their last stages of life.

"You can't just pick somebody off the street to visity someone who is dying, " Kathleen Merk says. "There's a lot to learn."

PHOTO AND ARTICLE COURTESY: Matt Prepost, Alaska Highway News



For 15 years, Lou Santucci has been, quietly, and with great care, tending to grieving mothers, wives, husbands, and sons.

She has been the helper, when death is near, who eases the sorrows that bear heavy on the minds of those facing the great unknown.

And, through her many years of service with the Fort St. John and District Palliative Care Society, Santucci has selflessly given doting families the alone time they need when the role of caretaker takes too great a toll.

“I love sitting and talking to them, and hearing the stories, and sometimes they just need someone to talk to, because no one else is prepared to discuss the fact that they might be dying, or that they are dying,” she said in an interview with the Alaska Highway News.

“They need to be able to talk about that to somebody, and sometimes it’s us.”

It’s a difficult role, and it’s not for everyone. Volunteers often come and go, Santucci said. But for her, the reward of giving back is invaluable.

“You do get to know people,” she said, explaining “definitely you do, at times” get attached to the patients.

Santucci, a bookkeeper by profession, became involved with the society about the time her brother was terminally ill with cancer and passed away.

“That was in Grande Prairie,” she explained, “but we had a lot of help from home care and nurses, and I just decided I wanted to take the training for palliative care, and get involved with helping patients and families.”

As a volunteer, she collaborates with healthcare professionals to be part of overall patient care, listens to the client and his or her family, and tries to ease patient suffering and discomfort.

“You have to be able to spend time with the patients and families, and just be there for them. Not necessarily give advice, just to listen. Listening is the biggest thing,” she said.

Another big part of what Santucci does is help patients and families cope with grief.

“People don’t realize that somebody that is terminally ill, they are grieving because they know they are going to lose something,” she said, adding that “most people think of the family that’s grieving, but the patient grieves as well.”

The holidays, Santucci said, can be an especially difficult time.

But, despite the sorrow that surrounds them, palliative care volunteers like Santucci have to be “cheering,” she said.

According to program co-ordinator Pat Albrecht, the Fort St. John and District Palliative Care Society has about 20 volunteers. Some visit with patients, while others sit on the board of directors, participate in fundraising, advertisement and recruitment, and help with administrative duties.

All visiting volunteers—who sit with patients whether they are in hospital, a care home, or in their house—complete a five-week training course prior to visitations.

During that time, instructors stress the importance of respecting the confidentiality of the clients and their families.

To learn more or become involved, visit the society at 9812 108th Avenue, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or call 250-787-2814.

PHOTO AND ARTICLE COURTESY: Bronwyn Scott, Alaska Highway News



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