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Olds & District Hospice Society has 85 volunteers in 2022

Delegates from Olds-based organization recently made presentation to Mountain View County council

MOUNTAIN VIEW COUNTY — Olds & District Hospice Society officials have updated county council on some of the organization’s recent activities and plans.

The review came during the recent regularly scheduled council meeting, which was held in person and by Zoom.

Society executive director Mary Smith appeared before council as a delegation.

“We are happy to serve our community,” said Smith.

“Our mission is to provide quality, compassionate care in a home-like setting for those facing death by offering physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual and educational support to the individuals, their families and community at the end of life and during bereavement. Our amazing volunteers do all of that and they do a wonderful job,” she said.

“We have an aging population and the need for quality hospice palliative support is going to increase in demand, especially in our rural communities where there isn’t a lot of support that is offered.”

The society’s core values are compassion, confidentiality, dignity, volunteerism and communication, she said.

There are currently 85 volunteers who work for the society, she said. The society was founded in 2011.

One of the society’s seven pillars is the newly launched Nav-CARE support, which sees specially trained volunteers who help “improve the lives of people living with chronic or terminal illness by creating connections to community support services and resources and providing caring, compassionate emotional and social support,” she said.

“That program took off quite a bit in COVID as people were feeling quite isolated,” she said.

In 2021, the society supported 107 clients, up from 79 in 2020. Occupancy in the society’s two hospice suites in Olds has also increased from 45 per cent in 2020 to 81 per cent in 2021; so far in 2022, the occupancy has been 100 per cent.

The new Butterfly Memorial release event was incorporated in 2021.

A part-time volunteer coordinator was hired in 2021, and an endowment fund for sustainability was also created.

A total of 15 hospice clients were served in the suites, 26 hospice clients were served at home, 38 bereavement clients were served, and 26 Nav-CARE clients were served.

The society currently has three paid staff, 85 volunteers – 54 trained and 31 support. More than 2,600 volunteer hours were recorded in 2021.

In 2022, there have been three clients served in suites as well as six clients at home or hospital.

New things in 2022 include the online memorial service and in-person Hike for Hospice event.

“We are exploring an expansion of offering hospice suites, to have one available in Didsbury in the future,” she said.

Palliative training modules are being developed online and offered to volunteers “so they can work at their own pace,” she said. 

She noted that the need for hospice suites in the region “is going to steadily increase to our aging population, so we are looking to the future of potentially expanding to offer more suites,” she said.

As part of long term planning, a standalone committee has been formed to determine long-term needs of the hospice palliative support in the area, she said.

Some of the challenges that have surfaced during the pandemic include learning new technologies, raising funds for operations, volunteer retention, and mental health of clients as well as volunteers and staff.

“The society is honoured to be able to serve our clients, families and our community at large,” she said. “We are grateful for all the businesses, individuals, government bodies, municipalities, foundations and our dedicated volunteers that support us in our journey to assist individuals and families in need.”

Counc. Peggy Johnson asked in light of the current 100 per cent occupancy of the suite what the society’s plans are going forward.

Smith replied, “Right now we are looking at different options and trying to be economical. We have a committee we call the Didsbury expansion committee. We have seen a lot of residents from Didsbury that are accessing the Olds suites.

“So, we are thinking that we might want to do another satellite hospice suite in the town of Didsbury. We are working towards that.”

The long-term goal would be to have four hospice beds, she said.

Council received Smith’s report as information.

Dan Singleton

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