March 02, 2011

Palliative care extends to bereavement support

As published in The Erin Advocate

In a health system that attempts to meet both the physical and social health needs of its clients, palliative care naturally progresses to bereavement support.

With our aging population, it is an ambitious goal, trying to give seniors the support they need to live, and die, with as much independence as possible.

The Hospice Palliative Care Teams are part of a growing effort to enhance the work of palliative care physicians by meeting the changing needs of people outside of hospitals.

"We've been taking baby steps in introducing the service," said Andrea Martin, Director of the Waterloo Wellington Hospice Palliative Care Network. Funding from the Aging at Home Strategy has been extended to next year. The Wellington-Southgate Team is in the process of hiring an additional nurse practitioner – they cover a huge territory from Mount Forest to Erin.

"The team has had wonderful success in improving hospice palliative care to its clients and families," said Martin. "The specialists are aware of it, the case managers for CCAC, the community nursing services, our family health teams are quite aware, but from a public perspective, it is probably not well-known."

She said that having a spiritual care worker on the team has been "extremely beneficial", because many families have become disconnected from the faith communities they grew up with, and need a neutral person to offer support.

"It actually helps them link back to their faith community," she said.

The team also has a social worker, who can provide "help with emotional issues, and relationship-building among family members." The social worker can also assist with the sometimes overwhelming details of dealing with costs, government forms, various agencies and funeral arrangements.

To find out more about the Waterloo Wellington Community Care Access Centre (CCAC), and their mission of a "seamless experience through the health system", go to

The Hospice Wellington organization, with volunteer visitors and residential care for patients, also assists family members, helping them deal with grief both before and after the death of their loved one. Anyone who has experienced the death of someone important to them, whether sudden or expected, can call Hospice Wellington, at 519-836-3921. The programs provide support and compassion, and are not seen as therapy.

Staff or volunteers are available for one-to-one support on an as-needed basis, or a more regular schedule. Three to six months after the death, individuals may be ready to join a Grief Support Group of up to 10 people – a structured, safe place to explore emotions with others. Specific programs are available for adults, teens, children and those bereaved by suicide.

Each Spring and Fall, Hospice Wellington offers a 13 week volunteer training course, which is open to the public, entitled Insights into Terminal Illness, Grief and Bereavement.

Counselling is also available to families with doctors at the East Wellington Family Health Team. Issues of grief and loss can be disabling, so it is appropriate to seek out help in developing new coping skills.

Other services include Family Counselling and Support Services for Guelph-Wellington, a not-for-profit, community-based agency, that helps more than 5,000 people annually with a wide range of issues. No one is turned away due to income or inability to make payment. Check them out at