Many local residents are probably unaware that there is a hospice room at the Ashcroft Hospital. Joan Kealey—the contact person for the hospice room, and one of the people who volunteers there when needed—says that her work with the hospice room is one the most meaningful things she has done in her life; but she wishes more people knew of the room and used it.
“I think people don’t realize how good it is, and it’s so close,” she says. “We need people to know it’s there, and use it instead of going to Kamloops. It’s a beautiful, big room with a bed, recliners, a TV, and a sofa, so family can come in and stay.”
The room is some distance from the nurses’ station, but Kealey says its location at the end of a hallway means that family can go in and not disturb anyone else. Nursing staff look after medical needs of anyone staying in the hospice room, while volunteers such as Kealey are also there around the clock.
“We sit with them and monitor their needs, see if they are in distress,” says Kealey. “If visitors come we ask if they want us to stay, so we come and go as needed. They’re usually happy to have us there; not many people ask us to leave. If the patient can’t talk they [family and friends] maybe don’t know what to do with themselves, so they like us there.”
Some of the volunteers have grief training, and are comfortable talking with people about what they are going through. Kealey adds that family members who cannot be there find the security of knowing someone is with their loved one around the clock very comforting. “To have someone there means a lot. It’s reassuring to the family.”
Kealey initially got involved with the hospice room in Ashcroft 20 years ago, when she trained with Shirley Dobson. She moved away from the community for 15 years, and when she returned five years ago she felt that the hospice room was not being promoted or used as much as in the past. “It had fallen off.” Kealey notes that the hospice room was funded by the community before the creation of Interior Health (IH), but that IH has been trying to get the room for some time. “It’s a big room, and it would fit four patient beds. But it’s such a peaceful space, and such a good thing to have,” she says.
Volunteers have been there for several people this year, Kealey adds. “But it’s not being used as much as it could be. The staff are so good, and so close, and it’s such a beautiful room. It’s a shame not to use it.”
Kealey says that they also have booklets available, covering topics such as grief and understanding the dying process. Anyone who would like more information, or who has questions, about the hospice room at the Ashcroft Hospital can call Kealey at (250) 819-9646.