General News » News

COVID-19 has changed the conversation, but not mandate for hospice care

July 30, 2020   ·   0 Comments

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world, but, in many respects, it has been business as usual for some frontline workers.

The virus has changed day-to-day operations at Newmarket’s Margaret Bahen Hospice, but they have carried on at 92 per cent capacity without missing a beat – thanks to some innovative thinking and creative solutions.

“We have been able to operate almost business-as-usual in terms of our numbers,” says Director of Care Tamara Hennigar, noting that by the start of July they had seen 57 admissions since March. “Throughout the entire pandemic, we have operated at full capacity because our core population hasn’t changed and we’re still able to service that whole population – just with some modifications to our practices [like] changing our visiting policy and moving to patio visits.”

Margaret Bahen Hospice, the only residential hospice serving northern York Region and much of Southlake Regional Health Centre’s catchment area, prides itself on being a place of “yes” – identifying the needs and wishes of clients at the ends of their lives and doing what they can to make it happen.

Under present circumstances, Ms. Hennigar says they haven’t been able to say “yes” as often as they would like, but they’re addressing this challenge with a simple question: “How can we say yes?”

As The Auroran reported last week, some of these measures have been developing new protocols for bringing family pets into the hospice to be with their humans when families have had to stay socially distanced, even when saying goodbye.

“We want to figure out how to get it to work,” she says. “The biggest misconception is Hospice is sad, but we have had so many happy moments, too. We have had some proposals, we’ve had somebody coming into play the piano, coming in and singing – not right now with COVID, because we haven’t been able to do these things, [but] it is still about living.

“Everyone who comes in, we help them live and we help them live every moment until they are not living anymore. I think it is important for people to understand that, yes, you are losing someone and that is very impactful and very sad, but we can help you and your family live together and live the best that we can.”

While it has been business-as-usual as far as the essentials of end-of-life care, services, where possible, have flourished in a virtual realm. Art therapy programs, for instance, have seen significant success with one-on-one Zoom sessions. These programs have also eliminated travel time for practitioners and beneficiaries alike.

Additional programs finding renewed success on new platforms include yoga, mindfulness and group bereavement services.

“There have been a lot of clients who are bereaved, and we have a lot of clients who are going through even more grief and bereavement now because they haven’t been able to properly grieve and not experience that closure by having funerals and the other social norms we have associated with death and dying,” says Ms. Hennigar. “It is still the same in that regard, but it has changed the conversation. The conversation has changed but the needs are still there.

“The core population that we serve hasn’t changed. People are still dying of what they were before COVID, so we’re still servicing that whole population.”

But, it takes resources to continue serving the whole population, and that’s why Margaret Bahen Hospice and partner Doane House Hospice have launched The Great 2020 Hospice Activity Challenge, a re-think of their annual Hike for Hospice which challenges the community to turn their favourite summertime activities into a way to raise money for local care.

Whether it is swimming, walking, biking, or even skateboarding, registering for The Great 2020 Hospice Activity Challenge will raise much needed funds towards their $80,000 fundraising goal to make sure service remains seamless.

“The big message we want to share is that throughout the whole pandemic Hospice has been here. We have still been that support for clients in the communities, still in operation and still serving,” says Ms. Hennigar. “By joining the Activity Challenge, it is a way to really help support us and really show they are there with us. By doing stuff they love, it will be a great way to give back.”

For more information on The Great 2020 Hospice Activity Challenge, including registration and donation options, visit

By Brock Weir



Readers Comments (0)

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Page Reader Press Enter to Read Page Content Out Loud Press Enter to Pause or Restart Reading Page Content Out Loud Press Enter to Stop Reading Page Content Out Loud Screen Reader Support