What is a hospice?

Unfortunately, most people are not aware of what a hospice is until they have the need for one.  If you looked it up in a dictionary, a hospice would be described as a home for the terminally ill.  While hospitals are known for their goals of restoring health,  hospices are geared toward supporting (both psychologically and spiritually) a dying patient and their family.

Years ago I first learned about hospices when my friend was losing her fight with cancer.  A few times per week she attended a day hospice where she met with others in similar situations.  These outings offered her great comfort.  At that time there were no live in hospices in our community.  Today we are fortunate to have the newly expanded Ruddy Shenkman Hospice that currently has the capacity for ten live in patients as well as day services.

I volunteer at this hospice on the gardening team.  It gives me great satisfaction to help provide a beautiful setting for patients and their families living and visiting there. The gardens that were planted immediately after the construction were pretty boring, not to mention depressing, with rows of shrubs of which many were dead...

I spent a few days removing the dead sticks and replacing them with recycled perennials, then added mulch.  Much better…

hospice

These beds will look even  better in a few weeks when the recycled plants have a chance to get established.

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Kanata Welcomes the Ruddy-Shenkman Hospice

The unfortunate fact about hospices is that no one knows much about them until they have the use for one.  I must admit to supporting this fact myself.  In 1991 a good friend of mine was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 37.  My introduction to hospices and palliative care occurred soon after, and as a direct result of her tragic diagnosis.

My friend Suzanne and I had many things in common; we worked together as laboratory technologists in a local hospital, we both lived in Kanata just a few blocks apart from each other,  both had three children very similar in ages and both grew up in the small town of Cornwall, Ontario.  Although her first “tumor”, discovered in her abdomen shortly after her return to work from her third maternity leave, was diagnosed as benign, a malignant tumor was found in her spine a few years later.  At this point she was given a mere six months to live, but through sheer determination, strength and courage, she lived six more years.

Throughout those six years we became very close.  More of what I would call an acquaintance or co-worker before her diagnosis, she came to be one of my closest friends after.  Within those six years our families celebrated many occasions together: the birth of my youngest son, the first communion of her youngest son, her 25th wedding anniversary, a few milestone birthdays, the new millennium, and more.

Throughout those last six years of her life, Suzanne often visited a hospice to meet with others in circumstances similar to her own.  I know the support, friendship, guidance and care she received there was invaluable to her.  In fact, she would schedule her other appointments around her visits to the hospice.

The recent arrival of the Ruddy Shenkman Hospice in Kanata, located just a few blocks from my home (and Suzanne’s) has stirred up my thoughts about hospices and what they offer.  Since I have recently retired from my hospital job and started a landscaping company GARDENS4U I felt it appropriate and fitting to contact the Hospice to offer my services as a volunteer gardener for their new location in Kanata.

My offer was met with great enthusiasm by Jennifer Lockyer, Volunteer Coordinator and Site Maintenance Manager at the new Ruddy-Shenkman Hospice location.  Although the grounds and potential gardens are currently covered in snow and a lot of construction necessary to complete the Hospice, my meeting with Jennifer and a tour of the portion of the facility currently operational left me with that warm feeling you get when a good relationship is forged.  If you wish to join the gardening team or have plants to share, please contact myself or Jennifer at:

                              gardens4u@mail.com                     or                          Jennifer.Lockyer@hospicecareottawa.ca

I am looking forward to this new adventure and will be sure to plant lots of “Brown Eyed Suzannes” my affectionate rename of Suzanne’s favourite perennial Black Eyed Susans…

black eyed susans
brown-eyed Suzannes