The Wheatland & Area Hospice Society was formed in 2015. The board has grown from six to ten members; one of our goals is for our board to reflect the skills, interests and interests and geographical representation within our community.

To strengthen and develop our board, Alberta Culture has presented two two-day workshops. These have been invaluable to us. We can not recommend them enough to other hospice boards for governance and strategic planning education.

In the summer of 2015, we did a community needs assessment, followed by a stakeholders’ needs assessment that fall. Both showed a tremendous interest in rural hospice care, a desire not to travel long distances to access care, and a need to alleviate caregiver burnout. A number of programs were initiated by the board to address the needs, prior to focussing on the “bricks and mortar” of a hospice.

We developed three programs to assist the community stakeholders. First, a Lawyers Collaboration Group in which a board member visited each local lawyer to discuss advance care planning. Lawyers were taught the difference between goals of care and personal directives. Green sleeves and “Conversations Matter” booklets were left with the lawyers to distribute to clients. Secondly, a working group involving local EMS, AHS EMS director, our local palliative homecare nurse, and family physicians involved in palliative care now meets to co-ordinate care and communication to leverage the EMS Assess, Treat, and Refer protocols. Finally, the board is collaborating with PCN to advocate for increased funding and access to after-hours palliative support, and is supporting their Self Managed Care program, with hopes to provide a volunteer navigator in the future.

A program to directly assist palliative patients and their caregivers is now off the ground.  We have partnered with AHS Volunteer Services to provide in-home respite care in the evening and night hours.  We have aspirations to also get the Strathmore Hospital /AHS No One Dies Alone program running with these volunteers.

We are have had great success with our five SCIP (Serving Communities Internship Program) interns this summer. They have assisted us in the Bedside Respite program start-up, developing our website, preparing material and organization for our first Hike for Hospice, developing volunteer and donor databases, and preparing poster boards, PowerPoint presentations, and brochures for our various needs.  These young people’s enthusiasm is contagious, and it is a win-win for both; in addition to helping us, we are providing them with non-for-profit values, and material for their portfolios.

We have partnered with University of Calgary Cumming School of Medicine to participate in their research project studying rural communities and their efforts to improve rural hospice and palliative care. We are very grateful to Dr. Martin LaBrie and his efforts to “increase a community’s capacity to care”.

The Wheatland & Area Hospice Society is very grateful to the numerous families who have donated in memory of their loved ones. We are also extremely grateful for the ongoing support of the Cheadle Lions Club. They have had a number of “Feed a Steer” fundraisers in the years past; this May was the Board’s first-ever attempt to jump into gala fundraising with them. We have a few more gray hairs, but we are so grateful for the support of the Cheadle Lions and the community, as it was successful beyond our wildest dreams.

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