A feeling of home at Mel Miller Hospice

Gerritje (Gerry) Lankreijer loves playing the piano. She used to teach her siblings when they were growing up in the Netherlands. She also passed her skill down to her children after she and her husband, John, immigrated to Canada in 1967.

Now at 82 years of age, Gerry isn’t able to play as often as she would like, but she’s able to relive fond memories, thanks to a standing keyboard player brought from home to her room at the Mel Miller Hospice at the Edmonton General Continuing Care Centre.

“The room has a place for me to put my keyboard and play a little music,” Gerry says.

John visits Gerry every day.

Having her favourite instrument by her side isn’t the only creature comfort Gerry gets to enjoy in her hospital room. A 40-inch wall-mounted flat-screen TV; a small refrigerator; a feature wall; dimmer switches; new furniture; and a fresh coat of paint with calming, soothing hues all make the room feel cozy and homelike.

Gerry’s room is one of six newly renovated rooms at the hospice. Over the next few months, 20 more rooms will undergo similar renovations, thanks to an $800,000 donation from the Covenant Foundation.

“It’s our hope that by creating a warm, more homelike space in the palliative care unit, we’ll help support greater comfort and dignity for patients and families going through very difficult circumstances,” says Tracy Sopkow, chief executive officer, Covenant Foundation. “We’re grateful to our donors for supporting this project and making a difference to the patients, families and healthcare providers we serve.”

A comfortable environment benefits patients and their loved ones, says Lisa Shirley, unit manager of the hospice. “We want to create a home away from home, providing comfort and convenience to patients and their families.” 

Lisa believes that the addition of the new TVs, replacing the older 24-inch ones, will likely be a big game changer for patients and their families. “When we get a patient into a room with a small TV, a family member typically brings in a larger TV,” she says. Having a fridge in each room is also highly valued because beverages and snacks are within arm’s reach.

In the coming months, the entire palliative unit, including the common areas outside the rooms, will look quite different. A picture mural depicting a mountain scene will be strategically located at the front desk. The kitchen area will also be upgraded with new cabinetry, the sunroom will be reconfigured and the two living room spaces will have new shelving and furniture. There will also be a fireplace on the west side of the unit.

Some family members of patients have already expressed their appreciation for the newly renovated rooms, which is important because families also spend a lot of time at the hospice. 

While the completed renovations will transform the unit into a comforting and restorative place, the quality of care residents receive will always take precedence, says Lisa.

For John, who comes to the hospice every day to spend time with his wife, the care has been wonderful. “The place feels like home, and we have access to amazing doctors and nurses who take care of my wife," he says. "They even look after me as well!”

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