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Province provides help for Oceanside Hospice

Parksville-Qualicum MLA Michelle Stilwell, left, listens as Bowser resident Miriam Sivan Bar talks about the help she received through the Oceanside Hospice Society after the death of her son six months ago. - JOHN HARDING PHOTO
Parksville-Qualicum MLA Michelle Stilwell, left, listens as Bowser resident Miriam Sivan Bar talks about the help she received through the Oceanside Hospice Society after the death of her son six months ago.
— image credit: JOHN HARDING PHOTO

Miriam Sivan Bar says she was lost six months ago when her son died.

The Bowser resident said the services of the Oceanside Hospice Society got her through a difficult time.

"I was lost, discouraged, disconnected and lonely and I was stumbling in the dark," Sivan Bar said during a news conference Thursday announcing a $40,000 grant to the society from the provincial government. "The moment I entered the hospice (Valhalla House in Qualicum Beach), I was welcomed with warm hearts. It was really a life-saver for me, solid ground to hold on to during a very difficult time in my life."

The grant announced last week by Parksville MLA Michelle Stilwell — she is also the parliamentary secretary for both healthy living and seniors — will support the society in its efforts to hire a community resource navigator — a first of its kind for Vancouver Island — who  will help patients and their families access end-of-life care and services. The provincial government said the grant will also support the society in the creation of  a community information package on end-of-life care to serve as a  resource for those that need great access to these services patients and their families.

"We owe it to all British Columbians to provide the support and care they need as close to their communities as possible," said Stilwell.

The MLA said the government is committed to doubling the amount of palliative care beds in the province by 2020. An Island Health official said during the news conference the Oceanside region will have four palliative care beds — there's currently one — by 2016.

Officially established in 1990, the Oceanside Hospice Society's programs are run by  three part-time staff and more than 60 volunteers. They provide outreach services to patients and families in their homes and in other care centers such as the palliative unit at Nanaimo Regional General  Hospital. Their approach to palliative care includes counselling and support groups, equipment loans, referral services and information, self-care, companioning and caregiver respite as well as palliative vigil services. Volunteers are trained to provincial standards and offer a wide range of services to help patients maintain a quality of life in their last days, and support families. The society provides programs and services to residents of Parksville, Qualicum Beach, Nanoose, Deep Bay, Bowser, Qualicum Bay, Errington, Coombs, Hilliers and Whiskey Creek.

"Oceanside Hospice Society has been working to connect with and provide support to palliative patients, their family members and care givers sooner, once they receive a diagnosis of a life limiting illness," said Lynn Wood, executive director of the Oceanside Hospice Society. "By providing support and information during this most difficult time, we believe that greater peace of mind will result and fewer crisis will occur. We are thrilled that the government sees this as an opportunity to invest in the well-being of our Oceanside community residents."

Elected officials from Parksville, Qualicum Beach and the Regional District of Nanaimo were on hand for the announcement Thursday.

"I am always kind of surprised how many services are available for people going through the grieving process, but not everryone knows about them," said Qualicum Beach Mayor Teunis Westbroek, who added the announcement Thursday was important for the community.

"Having a navigator to help people‚ because you are kind of in shock, having someone come along and help people get through the process, I think that's key."

Westbroek also commented on the plan to have four palliative care beds by 2016 in Oceanside, the region with the most elderly population in the country.

"I was hoping we would get them this year," he said. "But I know from being in government you can't always get what you want. But we will see how we can accelerate that."

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