"You matter because you are you, and you matter to the end of your life.  We will do all we can not only to help you die peacefully, but also to live until you die."

Dame Cicely Saunders

We respected her wish to stay home

Anne and Michael Afelskie’s journey – “It was a great help.”

Sept 7, 2016 - When former teacher Anne Afelskie was dying at home from colon cancer, she was surrounded by family. She was also supported by trained volunteers from Madawaska Valley Hospice Palliative Care, who visited her at her Golden Lake home almost every day for four hours at a time.

The volunteers helped Anne brush her teeth. They prepared meals, washed dishes and told jokes. Nurses contracted by the Champlain Community Care Access Centre (CCAC) gave her medication for pain while CCAC-contracted personal support workers provided additional care.

This is exactly what Anne had hoped for; she didn’t want to die in a hospital bed. Her husband Michael Afelskie (pictured), a 73-year-old farmer and former accountant, appreciated the intensive in-home assistance.

M Afelskie

“Without the services, I wouldn’t have been able to keep my wife at home. It respected Anne’s wishes to be at home. My children would come on weekends to spend time with their mom. My daughter, Julie, would bring her two daughters and spend most of the weekends here,” he says. "I was plowing the fields, getting hay and feeding the cows. The volunteers allowed me to do a few little chores around the farm and home, but also gave me a little bit of mental rehab, when you can get out and do something different. It was a great help.”

Lisa Hubers, Madawaska Valley Hospice Care Program Director, says community-based services at end-of-life can help individuals during an extraordinarily difficult time.

“In the progression of an illness, there are some scary moments and sometimes there are little crisis moments, and we would help the family alleviate those concerns,” says Lisa, adding that clinical staff was always available, in-person or by phone, to answer questions from Anne and Michael and their two children. “That prevented the family from rushing to an emergency department, and allowed the family to be comfortable and stay at home, right until the end.”

In addition to providing in-home services, Madawaska Valley Hospice Palliative Care also operates two residential hospice beds in Barry’s Bay for people who prefer that setting. The Champlain LHIN provides funding for these services in Madawaska Valley and other areas in the region, and supports overall planning and improvement efforts through the Champlain Hospice Palliative Care Program.

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“The LHIN has made it a priority to improve access to health services such as hospice palliative care to all Champlain residents, no matter where they live in the region,” says Champlain LHIN CEO Chantale LeClerc. “The Afelskie family’s positive experience of the health system shows the importance of matching services to the unique needs and preferences of patients and caregivers. Providing support to people and their families at end-of-life in their own communities is not only what people want, it makes sense for the overall health system.”

From a provincial perspective, as announced in June 2016, Ontario is investing an additional $75 million over three years to provide patients with more options and access to community-based palliative and end-of-life care.

As a first step, part of that investment is going toward hospices across the province, including $2.8 million in the Champlain region. This increased funding for existing hospice beds strengthens end-of-life support that relieves suffering, and improves quality of living and dying.

"Hospices are special places that provide compassionate care to patients and families at a challenging time in their lives. They are a critical part of Ontario's plan to ensure access to high-quality hospice palliative care," says John Fraser, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care.