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Hospice Northwest finding ways to adapt

Hospice Northwest finding ways to adapt

By Shane Judge

THUNDER BAY, ONTARIO  ~~~~  August 6, 2020  (LSN)   Humans are the most adaptable creatures on earth. But Covid-19 has globally tested our abilities like no other threat in our lifetimes. The virus has sought out the vulnerable among us and forced us to find ways to adapt.

The threat of the virus isn’t only to humans. It’s wreaking havoc within human organizations. This is especially true for businesses that depend on group gatherings or that deal with individuals face-to-face.

One group that’s really had to put on its thinking cap is one to which I belong. It’s Hospice Northwest.

I chair the annual fundraiser, the Hike for Hospice. Beginning in March, we had to pull a mighty lever to completely switch gears. We postponed the walk around Boulevard Lake set for early May. We moved the bidding for our prizes on-line. Same goes for the 50-50 draw. 

We’re now holding what amounts to a virtual Hike in September. No gathering at St. Ignatius High School. Now you sign up using the Hospice Northwest website. You can walk around Boulevard Lake as usual (with a detour that avoids the dam) or simply walk in your neighbourhood if gathering outdoors is a concern.

We’re holding the Hike because Hospice has not thrown up its hands and shut down in the face of the pandemic. Our leaders have adapted the entire organization to the new normal and continue to provide compassionate care to the dying and respite and support for families struggling with the death of a loved one.

In April, Hospice began the Support-A-Senior, Make A Tele-friend program, enabling isolated seniors to receive friendly visits over the telephone.

We did not forget families who are grieving. We took a crash course in Zoom teleconferencing and switched our in-person Circle of Friends and Hearts and Hope support groups to online formats.

Sessions addressing specific types of grief were offered, such as suicide bereavement and a young widows’ group.  We’re even setting up a program to help those who’ve experienced a loss during Covid-19. These deaths have been especially hard on people because families weren’t able to be with their dying loved ones or to have a traditional funeral.

One of the most difficult struggles for a group whose mission is to provide compassionate companionship at end-of-life was losing our ability to be bedside, holding the hand of the dying individual.

We’re now using technology as never before to let people know someone out in the wider world is thinking about them and wanting to help.

Sometimes you need assistance adapting to new circumstances. HNW is thankful for the United Way/Thunder Bay Community Foundation Covid-19 Community Relief Fund, which provided us with a grant to purchase IPads, Kobo readers and Pocket Talkers (assistive devices to amplify telephone calls). The new gear will enable us to visit online and phone our clients when we can’t meet with them.

The Canadian Red Cross also stepped up and provided training and Personal Protective Equipment. Now our volunteers will be able to get back into the homes of our clients and to resume visits in facilities where that’s allowed.

Finally, after eight months of development, Hospice Northwest introduced a culturally-sensitive grief support program for the city’s indigenous community. It’s called Gashkendamide-e, or Grief from the Heart. 

The program was created out of a series of discussions and workshops with an indigenous advisory committee. The goal of the project is to create a safe therapeutic environment for people grieving the loss of a loved one. It combines the strengths of Western and Indigenous teachings.

So you can see we’ve been busy even when things seem to have screeched to a halt elsewhere.

To make it all work we need a core of paid, professional staff and a large cohort of trained volunteers. That all costs money. That’s why our Virtual Hike for Hospice on September 13th is so important. It’s our biggest annual fundraiser. It costs $40 to participate. You can make a donation yourself or raise the money through friends. You can sign up on-line at

You’ll be hearing a lot more about the Hike over the next several weeks on radio and television. We’ll also be doing a lot of work through social media.

Death doesn’t adapt. But in life, we do. Please help this wonderful organization continue its good work helping the living.





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