Hospice jumps in to support during pandemic

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Hospice jumps in to support during pandemic

Benhilda Chirisa (Left) and Brenda Caldwell (Right), Kensington Hospice

For Brenda Caldwell, being there when people need it most comes naturally. She is the Nursing Manager at Kensington Hospice, a place she has worked for nearly a decade and where she helps families and residents at end of life by providing support and care. 

So when Kensington Gardens, our long-term care home with nearly 350 residents, had a devastating COVID-19 outbreak, she knew she had to help. 

Brenda drew from her experience in palliative care to educate the teams on the first floor of the North building where the outbreak was taking place. 

“You are helping residents adjust, providing medication, hydrating their lips, and you’re supporting family over the phone. It is a busy time and yet filled with awareness and presence,” she says. 

Brenda was not the only one from Hospice who heard the call to help Kensington Gardens and took a risk to help our residents. Benhilda Chirisa, Administrative Assistant at the Hospice and a certified Personal Support Worker, felt a need to help because compassion is a core part of what her team does. As she explained to her kids, “if it were me in that bed, you would want someone taking care of me.” 

The work on the floor was hard for all staff. For many, the toll of residents dying was the hardest. 

Benhilda remembers one staff member who she helped shroud a body for the coroner’s office. This was a person they knew and who they had been caring for. The colleague was scared, and Benhilda said to her, “I know it is very scary, but I am here to support you. We are going to go through this together.” 

At Kensington, we believe everyone deserves a good ending – that end of life care is important and ensures families have time to be together. But this pandemic has made dying even more challenging. Family members were not able to be together physically, and yet Brenda did what she could to be there for each resident. 

“We remained centred thinking about what this resident needs. How do we help the family members who weren’t able to be with their loved one? How could we be a bridge so they can be as present as possible?” 

The team helped connect families on the phone, described what was happening, and how their loved one was being taken care of. And with Brenda there, residents had someone holding their hand while checking to make sure they were comfortable. 

“I had the privilege of sitting there for hours being with the person, holding their hand and being present. I looked around the room and learned what mattered to the resident. There were pictures of anniversaries, of families, of love, of life lived. It was a small glimpse for all of us of who might be here had it not been for COVID. We needed to understand the fullness of their families about those experiences.” 

Across the Kensington campus, our colleagues in the Hospice remind us that we are here to serve and to help people live their stories. During this pandemic, our communities are having to say goodbye differently, and grief is harder. Our Hospice team strives even harder to make sure families are still able to spend those last moments together and that all residents at the hospice feel supported. 

Posted in Hospice on Aug 15, 2020