Anne Venneman hosted her 80th
birthday party two days after she left her
farm and moved into a hospice. Thirty of
Anne’s friends and relatives packed into
her new apartment, one of two hospice
suites at Sunrise Encore, an assisted-living facility in Olds.
“It was crowded,” says Heather
Venneman, Anne’s daughter-in-law. “It
meant a lot for us to gather and celebrate
her life, her birthday.”
Sunrise Encore’s hospice suites were
created and are run by the Olds and
District Hospice Society. The volunteer-
run society turns 10 this October and
has helped more than 200 families with
palliative and end-of-life care.
Albertans have varying degrees of
access to palliative and end-of-life care
and resources. Some people with life-
limiting illnesses leave their towns and
smaller cities to receive palliative care in
bigger cities. This can make it harder for
friends and family to visit.
Alberta Health Services recently
published A Resource Guide for
Community Development of Palliative
and End-of-life Care within Alberta.
“It’s about how to build compassionate
communities and how communities
can build some of their own capacity
for palliative and end-of-life care,”
says Michelle Peterson Fraser, senior
consultant with AHS’s Palliative and
End-of-Life Care provincial team. The
guide includes topics such as how to get
started, how to access existing palliative
and end-of-life care community services
and how to fundraise.
A compassionate community supports
people with life-limiting conditions and
their families so they can stay at home,
or close to home, surrounded by loved
ones. Sometimes this means helping
with groceries or shovelling the walk.
Or it can mean training volunteers in
bereavement counselling. Or it can mean
creating a hospice.
The Olds and District Hospice
Society gave the Vennemans the space
and support needed to make the most
of the time Anne had left. She died
five days after her birthday party in
“Having the hospice and that quiet
environment, and yet knowing we
were supported by the staff there
gave us the ability to just be a family,”
Heather says. “It was like when a
star is dying—it compresses its energy
on itself. Our world compressed into
that space and Anne was the centre of
that world.” |a
For more information, see the directory
on page 46A.
Supporting people at the end of life
WRITTEN BY DOUG HORNER
ILLUSTRATED BY JASON LIN
AHS is helping communities support people with life-limiting conditions to stay at home, or close to home.