Social distancing requirements in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic are affecting every area of our lives, including the way we die.
The director of the Castlegar Hospice Society (CHS) says it is a very challenging time for those dealing with end of life issues.
“Our purpose for being here is working with our clients at end of life and providing support for our grief and bereavement clients,” said Suzanne Lehbauer.
“Our purpose is to be there for them. When you can’t be meeting face to face, it is heartbreaking.”
CHS is doing the best they can by utilizing phone calls, video conferencing, social media and doorstep drop off. But for many, that personal touch is sorely missed.
“Aside from COVID-19, there are people at end of life for other reasons,” said Lehbauer. “They have kind of been pushed to the side in terms of the way we are looking at the world right now.”
Lehbauer said there are a lot of people who are not able to have their families with them as they are going through the last stages of life.
“It breaks my heart, it is horrific,” said Lehbauer. “It is something we have never had to deal with before.”
She says clients and staff are getting creative by visiting through windows and using baby monitors to have conversations as not everyone has access or the technology skills to utilize social media and video chat platforms.
Lehbauer says her incredible volunteer team is working hard to come up with even more innovative solutions.
In the near future CHS will be producing a series of Facebook posts on grief support during social distancing. They will be aimed at those going through the grieving process as well as supportive family and friends.
Meanwhile, new client referrals keep coming in. CHS is working with eight palliative clients and 30 grief support clients at the moment. The organization is also still providing help with advanced care plans.
The first step to access support from hospice is to give them a call at 250-304-1266 and staff will then set up an individual consultation to best meet the client’s needs.
The non-profit society has also had to cancel some major fundraising events leaving their budget $15,000 short.
“A lot of hospices and non-profits are in the same position we are,” said Lehbauer.
She says that this is the most stressful time she has gone through in her 13 years with hospice and that she is hearing the same from many of her colleagues.
“The stress is unbelievable for everyone in health care,” said Lehbauer.
“But we’re still here for you, and everyone on our team is doing their best to help people.”
Donations can be made to the Castlegar Hospice Society online at castlegarhospice.org.