Krista Manuel and Theresa Hamilton have a lot of experience dealing with death. Krista is on the Revelstoke Hospice Board of Directors and Theresa is the Executive Director for Revelstoke Hospice. Additionally, they are both death doulas and Krista works at Revelstoke’s Brandon Bowers Funeral Home.
Death is a subject frequently glazed over in western society with words like ‘passed’ and ‘moved on’ often used when someone dies. It’s a subject that makes people feel awkward and uncomfortable and afraid of saying the wrong thing.
“As a community, I think we are conscious of living well, but part of that is embracing quality of life and helping individuals in our community die well,” says Manuel.
Death is also a biological reality that every one of us will face. And for some, that reality is on the near horizon.
“I often remind people that hospice is a philosophy, not a physical space,” says Hamilton.
The RHS’ members and volunteers deal with some of the most vulnerable people in our society — those who are dying or who are suffering from an incurable illness.
Founded in 1994, the Revelstoke Hospice Society’s philosophy encourages a focus on life and living. The goal of hospice care is to help the client live the fullest life possible, while also helping all whose involved to come to terms with the illness.
“Palliative care provides the framework for RHS,” Hamilton explains. “Volunteers believe themselves to be honoured to sit with dying individuals.”
RHS offers information, companionship and emotional support to those who are dying or ill, their families and their caregivers. The society provides caregivers with a “breather” to have some time for themselves.
RHS also maintains a companion program called “Pal’s.” Some Pal’s volunteers visit seniors at the cottages (Mount Cartier Court), Moberly Manor and others provide companionship to those in their own homes. This provides those who are lonely with conversation in addition to relieving certain strains on an already burdened health care system.
The RHS’s Pal’s program partners volunteers with isolated seniors within the community. Depression in seniors is real, often due to isolation, and Revelstoke seniors are not immune. Having someone visit and listen is a simple, but generous gift one can give to others.
“Many Pal’s visit once a week for an hour, though we have volunteers who become close to the family,”says Hamilton. “One volunteer spent 60+ hours in one month, another 52+ hours volunteering.”
Those who visit with isolated seniors often find the relationship morphs into an intergenerational friendship.
“I am so humbled by having older friends, they’ve lived layered lives that we can always learn from,” says Hamilton.
The valuable services the RHS provides to the community is done on a shoestring budget funded by grants and donations. The most critical piece of the RHS being a viable society is a healthy roster of active volunteers. Without the men and women willing to help, it can’t provide a high level of compassionate care.
“I am so proud of the work the volunteers of Revelstoke Hospice Society. For such a small volunteer base, we work wonders in our community. Some volunteers have been active for 25 years, as old as the society itself,” says Manuel. “Some of our valued members are retired care professionals, who have given a number of years to this community in other ways.”
If you have an interest in getting involved, RHS is offering palliative care training October 24th-October 27th. Registration is free. For a list of guest speakers or to register please contact Revelstoke Hospice Society 250-837-5523, firstname.lastname@example.org.