Jan Tollefson’s family is grateful for the comfort and care she received during her last days.
The 61-year-old woman had a glioblastoma, a terminal brain tumour that caused her to fall and have seizures. Jan knew what she wanted when the time came that her family could no longer care for her, recalls her mother, Jean Tollefson.
“Jan had chosen to go to a hospice rather than a hospital,” says Jean. “She had said that she was not afraid to die but was concerned about how that would happen and if she would be in pain.”
Bev Delong says prior to becoming too ill, her sister took them to tour three palliative care sites, including Dulcina Hospice in Calgary, where Jan would spend 78 days before she died.
When Jan moved into the hospice, Bev and Jean experienced a shift in their roles. They no longer had to worry about supervising medications, buying groceries or doing the laundry for Jan. Now they had more time to spend with her. They also had support from staff, including Sue Irwin, a licensed practical nurse.
“We’re not just about the resident,” says Sue. “We get very involved with the families as well. Some families will really embrace us. This family embraced us which allowed us to be an integral part of their stay with us.”
Bev says the nursing staff provided insight into Jan’s condition and what was ahead for her.
“The nursing staff took time whenever needed to answer our questions about Jan’s condition. On several occasions they would just simply talk and share their knowledge,” says Bev.
The time came that Jan lost her ability to speak.
“Staff always acknowledged Jan as a person even after she lost the ability to verbally communicate, reminding us that our residents are always present with us, able to hear and often using unique ways to communicate as they prepare to leave us,” says Sue.
“We would explain what we were doing, naming the medications being administered and the reasons, explaining the care being provided.”
“For us, hospice is a very meaningful place to be at that point in someone’s life. We all feel very honoured to be part of that individual’s life and experience at that point. If we can just be that tiny influence that may make a difference for our residents in terms of their passing more peacefully with dignity, respect and compassion surrounding them, it’s wonderful,” says Sue.
Jan died on Oct. 27, 2015, at Dulcina. Six months later, Jean and Bev returned for a memorial service organized by hospice staff.
“In Dulcina, we found compassion, care and comfort," says Jean. "We always felt welcome and were treated as friends. We will always be thankful for the days we were able to spend time with Jan and the kind and thoughtful care of all the staff.”
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