Stedman Hospice offers 'compassion' along final journey
Published on Monday,23 January, 2017

| By Jeff Tribe

If Peter Slaman were to sum up his experience with Stedman Community Hospice in a single word, it might well be ‘compassion.’

"Unbelievable,” said the Port Dover resident Wednesday afternoon during the facility’s Norfolk Community Outreach Office Open House at 23 Market St. "Everyone in that place seemed to have that care for another person, ‘What can we do for you, how can we ease your pain?’

"That applies from the nurses right down to the lady at the front door who signed you in.”

Slaman’s path to Stedman began in December, 2014 when his wife Veronica ("Everyone knew her as Ronnie,”) experienced eyesight issues and began suffering constant headaches. During their March, 2015 trip to Spain, Ronnie was stumbling over things and lost her peripheral vision, leading to a CAT scan in April, which came back negative.

But by July, 2015 with her speech slurred and both suspecting a stroke, the couple visited Norfolk General Hospital. More detailed tests revealed a growth on her brain, identified as cancerous through a subsequent operation in Hamilton.

Given best estimates of between four months and two years to live and transferred back to Simcoe post-operation, Ronnie, realizing her condition was terminal, elected to return home as soon as possible. While there, a doctor had mentioned the possibility of a hospice in passing and in September, 2015 she was referred to an outreach team.

Peter, his two daughters, Ronnie’s sister and CCAC staff combined to provide home care through that fall and into the winter.

"Without them, I would not have been able to do it for sure.”

Slaman also spoke to the value of support throughout this journey, how much he appreciated a visit or a phone call from a friend or family member.

Peter found the toughest part of providing care for a person you are emotionally involved is seeing them suffer. Early in January, 2016, CCAC staff suggested it might be time to consider the hospice. Dr. Robin Martin-Godelie performed an assessment with a nurse, and when a bed opened up two days later (January 13), Ronnie was moved to Stedman in Brantford. She relaxed immediately, says Peter, almost as if she had accepted the final stage of her journey.

"It’s the biggest relief knowing that she was looked after, she was at peace.”

Ronnie passed Saturday, January 30, 2016.

"She was at peace during those last 17 days,” says her husband. There was no such thing as a hospice for his parents, the level of service provided unavailable, up to and including a post-death visit with his family from Stedman Supportive Care Clinician Maureen Russell.

"I think a hospice is a very, very important part of medical care. A person who is in their final days needs different care.”

Slaman shared his story, although difficult and emotional in the retelling, during the Norfolk Community Outreach Office Open House in support of others in the future, continued service whose value is most evident to those who have already taken the journey.

"The need is so obvious once you’ve gone through it. I think every person should have the opportunity, should this time of life come, that these services are there.”
Palliative care has many rewards

Palliative care has many rewards
Published on Friday,16 December, 2016

Colleen Toms
Brant News  |  Dec 15, 2016
In Photo: Stedman Community Hospice registered nurse Tara Young, left, residential care co-ordinator Jennifer Dennis and student nurse Stephanie VanderValk are part of the team who make a patient's final days easier.

A day in the life of a Stedman Community Hospice caregiver is anything but typical.

"There are times my husband will ask me ‘so what have you got planned for the day’ and I say ‘I have no idea,’ because the days are so unpredictable,” said residential care co-ordinator Jennifer Dennis.

Dennis is in charge of assessing patients and co-ordinating their admission to the hospice.

Many of the admissions are recommended by the Stedman Community Hospice outreach program and Dennis will then visit with the patient and family in their home or in the hospital.

"That’s when you have that difficult conversation about how things have been at home and how hospice care could benefit them and their family,” Dennis said. "For the families there’s a tremendous amount of relief to know the burden of care is being shifted now onto professional caregivers.

"In spite of the wonderful job they’ve done, they need time now just to be at the bedside.”

Some patients will have already expressed a desire to spend their final days at the hospice while for some, knowing they are leaving their home for the last time and that their journey is coming to an end can be distressing.

"I would say it’s probably the most difficult decision that patients and families ever make, just to accept that,” said hospice executive director Cheryl Moore.

For Dennis, making the decision as to which patient would benefit most from care in the hospice setting isn’t easy, either.

"Sometimes it’s the needs of the family more than the patient,” Moore said. "When it’s a young mom or dad too, I just pray that we have a bed because we have to look at the children and where is the best environment in this situation that they can be in.

"I don’t believe there’s any other setting that can wrap their arms around a family and support them like hospice can.”

As difficult as working in palliative care can be, it can also be very rewarding.

"You don’t intend to go into it, you just happen upon it and once you happen upon it you realize, this is the most meaningful work I’ve ever done and it allows you to be the nurse that you always imagined that you could be,” Dennis said.

For registered nurse Tara Young, providing 24/7 hands-on care enables her to personalize care for each individual patient.

"Our staff really tries hard to get to know who that person is they’re looking after so they will fine-tune that care,” Young said. "It’s having the person define their goals and wishes for end-of-life care and then changing our ways and trying to accommodate their wishes. It’s about them.”

When working in palliative care nurses need to be flexible and open to treating patients in ways that may not be typical.

"We want it to be as homey as it can be for them and to keep their routines the same,” Young said. "We had a patient who had a Sunday night football family event and that was his last event. We try to make it very personal for them.”

There are times when rules are broken – for instance some patients may want an ice cream sundae for breakfast or a homemade apple pie - and hospice staff will go out of their way to fulfill their wishes.

Walking into a room and seeing a smile on the face of a patient is often all the reward nurses need.

"Just to know that they are comfortable, that is the best feeling,” Young said.

Nurses often establish bonds with patients, which can make it more difficult when the patient dies.

"Friendships evolve, it’s hard not to build those friendships, so even in grief and in mourning it helps to keep in touch with the families sometimes,” Young said. "The support of staff is also very helpful.”

Student nurse Stephanie VanderValk said patient care revolves more around personal comfort in palliative care.

"It’s more supportive care,” she said. "It’s really humbling, that’s what I’ve found, and rewarding for sure.

"Even when they do pass away it’s sad, but you also have to think that it’s what the patient wanted at that time.”

VanderValk had a personal experience with hospice care, which helped steer her in that direction for her career.

"It was the type of care – (nurses are) not wearing uniforms and it has every feel of a home,” she said. "It doesn’t have the beeps, the sounds and it gives the family time to be a wife, to be a daughter, to be a son and not that caregiver that they are at home.

"It’s kind of like a beautiful thing here.”
Palliative Headquarters in Port Dover

Palliative Headquarters in Port Dover
Published on Friday, 9 December, 2016

The Stedman Community Hospice in Brantford has opened an extension office in Port Dover. Among those on hand for the official opening Thursday was Dr. Robin Martin-Godelie, seated, a palliative care physician serving Norfolk County. In back, from left, are Bob Pomeroy of the Port Dover Lions, Stedman executive director Cheryl Moore, and Ross Gowan of the Rotary Club of Norfolk Sunrise. MONTE SONNENBERG/SIMCOE REFORMER

A structured approach to end-of-life care is finally taking shape in Norfolk County.

Prior to Dec. 1, Norfolk families needing palliative care turned to the Stedman Community Hospice in Brantford and its roving team of clinicians.

Today – thanks to generous contributions from the Port Dover Lions and the Rotary Club of Norfolk Sunrise – the Stedman hospice has an extension office in Port Dover.

The service clubs acted due to growing demand and the pressure this is placing on front-line medical workers. The Lions and Rotarians decided it was unacceptable for these professionals to be performing such sensitive and important work out of their cars and in coffee shops.

With ongoing support from the community, the Lions and Rotarians see the Port Dover office as the first step in the development of a network of centres supporting families and health-care workers devoted to palliative care.

"It takes a community to look after the fragile,” Ross Gowan, chair of the Lions-Rotary committee that headed up the initiative, said at the office’s dedication in Port Dover Thursday.

"It’s not just up to the health-care system. The vision I have is one of a community that wraps itself around those who need palliative care like a giant hug. We’re delighted to be part of that. The next step is to bring in the rest of the community to make this initiative grow.”

Bob Pomeroy echoed similar sentiments on behalf of the Port Dover Lions.

"From acorns great oaks grow,” Pomeroy said. "This is something I hope spreads and grows much bigger across Norfolk.”

The Stedman Community Hospice currently serves 600 patients and family members in Brantford, Brant County, Haldimand, Norfolk, Six Nations and New Credit. Nearly a third of this caseload is based in Norfolk, with 12 new cases from Norfolk alone referred to Stedman last week.

"The need is so great,” Stedman executive director Cheryl Moore said at Thursday’s event. "What makes death any less important than birth? The government is finally beginning to realize that end-of-life care is an important aspect of the health-care system.”

Dr. Robin Martin-Godelie, of Simcoe, is the palliative specialist serving Norfolk County. The doctor and her team are able to serve the community in a more orderly and efficient manner now that they have a base of operation for receiving clients.

"I want to extend a sincere `Thank you,’” Dr. Martin-Godlie said to the Lions and the Rotarians. "You’ve made our lives a whole lot easier.”

Derrick Bernardo, president of the St. Joseph’s Life-Care Centre – the administrative group overseeing the Stedman hospice – said this is the first time in Ontario that private organizations have marshalled their resources to provide palliative care in the community.

"Feel free to brag about that,” he said. "Your partnership has not gone unnoticed by the St. Joseph’s health-care community. You have brought care closer to home.”

The Stedman extension office is located in Suite 7 of the professional building at 23 Market Street West. The Port Dover Lions and Rotary of Norfolk Sunrise are committed to supporting the office for at least two years. Beyond that, it will be up to the community to support the venue through donations and fundraising campaigns.
Hospice provides peace

Hospice provides peace
Published on Thursday,10 November, 2016

Brant News
By Colleen Toms

After a hard-fought, three-year battle with cancer, Robert (Quinn) Quinlan is ready to accept his fate. Yet he is doing so with feelings of peace and contentment.

For the past three weeks Quinn has been a resident at Hankinson House in the Stedman Community Hospice. For Quinn, it feels more like a five-star hotel.

"It’s an enlightening experience,” Quinn said. "I had no idea that this place was available. I had no idea that the service provided would be so exceptional and it was really a dream come true to come here. The people are just wonderful.

"I’m delighted to be here.”

Quinn – an executive chef by trade – spent 25 years in South Florida and worked in Naples, where he spent five years at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in charge of the kitchen that fed hundreds of people every week.

"He draws a comparison to the hospice here as being like a five-star hotel,” said Quinn’s brother Tom.

The freedoms the hospice affords, such as sleeping in, watching his favourite television programs, being able to eat whatever he feels like when he feels like it, and having family and friends come and go as they please, help to make the surroundings feel very much like home for Quinn.

"We get to pace ourselves,” he said.

Friendly and caring staff and volunteers are always at the ready to assist Quinn whenever needed.

"He would probably say the staff (are his favourite),” Tom said.

"I see the same thing – happy people, always a smile on their face, they can’t do enough for you. You don’t even get close to a frown around here from anybody.”

Tom – who served as his brother’s caretaker at home with the help of the hospice outreach team for the past six months – is also thrilled that Quinn is now enjoying his last days in peace and comfort at the hospice.

"My greatest fear was him getting up in the middle night and going to the washroom because he’s had a couple of falls,” Tom said. "That worry for me is removed by him being here because he is under constant watch.”

Rather than having to ensure Quinn receives his medications and proper doses on time and keeping a constant watch when he is up and about, Tom and sister Elspeth Gowrie can now sit and relax with Quinn.

"I was so impressed when I first came to visit,” Gowrie said. "I said, ‘I could live here too.’”

Time is spent laughing, reminiscing, hosting friends, relaxing in the beautiful gardens, quietly watching television while Quinn naps or going on "road trips” with Tom.

The beautiful surroundings of the hospice, both inside and out, enhance an atmosphere of warmth and comfort. When Quinn’s son and daughter visit they can play in the games room, enjoy a bowl of soup or indulge in a home-baked treat prepared by hospice volunteers.

"Everything is so bright in here, between the windows and the colour of the walls,” Tom said. "It’s everything that you would think that a hospice is not. You come into a place and think this is going to be kind of depressing but it’s the polar opposite.”

While Quinn doesn’t have the strength he once had when he was healthy, he hopes to be a role model for his friends and family with his upbeat and positive attitude.

"I don’t have a lot of strength anymore but maybe I can help in other directions,” Quinn said. "All we can do is one day at a time.”

Quinn is given additional peace of mind knowing that after he is gone, his loved ones will continue to receive support from the many services the hospice provides.

"This is like coming home every day,” Tom said. "I look forward to coming up here, not just to see Quinn, but to also see everybody else … It lifts you up.

"I would encourage people to come here just to see the place because they would be sold right away, and that would be incentive or motivation to people to support the hospice.”

Creating Gardens That Bring Peace

Creating Gardens That Bring Peace
Published on Tuesday, 6 September, 2016

Working in the gardens at Stedman House Community Hospice's Hankinson House isn't like any other job Meagan Bains has ever had.

"It's not like a job. It's not stressful,” she said. "Everyone is so nice here it's almost like Disney World, I can't explain it really.”

The 19-year-old Mohawk College student worked alongside Justin Leach, 17, and Blakeley Boakes, 17, in the gardens, expanding, deadheading, watering, installing flagstone path ways and much more this summer. Horticultural therapist Lynn Leach taught them about plant species, their purposes, gardening and more and says they are just as skilled as she is.

The students have also learned a lot about end of life services and received a lot of advice about life from residents, their families and other volunteers.

The students enjoyed their last day in the gardens on Friday making sure everything was left in perfect condition and saying their goodbyes to the many friends they have made at the hospice and St. Joseph's Lifecare Centre.

Cheryl Moore, executive director of the hospice said the three young people have worked extremely hard this year and she wanted to show the community that some youth are remarkable.

"These students have worked so hard and they deserve some recognition,” she said.

Leach said this isn't the only summer they have worked their hands to the grind stone. All three started three years ago when the gardens were created. Leach, a grade 12 student at Paris District High School and Boakes, a grade 12 student at Assumption College, helped bring in 125 tonnes of triple mix soil by wheelbarrow.

"We do almost everything by hand because we don't want to disturb the residents, so they worked really hard helping to make these gardens,” she said. "It's nice for them to be able to see their work blossom.”

Bains came later that summer and when she walked straight into a pond to help clean it Leach knew she was the right girl for the job.

Boakes said working at Stedman has made him very grateful for everything he has learned that has helped him become the person he is.

"We're lucky to have something so beautiful. People are lucky that when they aren't feeling well they can come out here and enjoy something so peaceful,” he said.

While Leach said he has learned a lot from the residents and other volunteers, some of which will stick with him for a long time.

"Something important for me, just to keep working hard and you'll, succeed,” he said.

Victoria Gray is a municipal affairs and general assignment reporter for Norfolk News. Contact Victoria at Follow The Norfolk News on Twitter, and Facebook
Hospice to open the 4 addtional beds

Hospice to open the 4 addtional beds
Published on Wednesday,17 August, 2016

The Stedman Community Hospice is getting $420,000 in annual funding from the province to open four additional beds at its new Hankinson House.

The announcement was made Tuesday morning by Ottawa South MPP John Fraser, parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Long-Term Care Eric Hoskins, who was joined by Brant MPP Dave Levac. Hankinson House had been receiving funding for six of its 10 beds.

The news was welcomed by Georgina Boutilier, who entered Hankinson House about three weeks ago because of her cancer.

"I think it's amazing," Boutilier said of the hospice in an interview.

"They're here for us, not them. Some people are in it for their jobs, but not these people. Everybody should die with dignity. I'm in a place where you feel it's about you."

Boutilier had fought pancreatic cancer in a successful operation that made her cancer free for five months. Then it was discovered the cancer had spread to her liver and she was given only a few months to live.

Now her goal is to make it to Nov. 9, so she and her husband, Roy, can celebrate their 25th anniversary together.

"I don't want to be greedy. Marriage is so hard today. To be married 25 years is a long time. I'm going to make it," she said.

"I'm determined."

Fraser told a gathering of nearly 40 people that the province is striving to increase funding for better palliative care.

"You want to make everything available that people need at the end of their lives," he said. "It is really critical."

He said that end of life care deserves the same kind of attention that the rest of it gets. "There are rest stations in life between Heaven and Earth and a hospice is an important one," he said.

Fraser said he was happy to announce the additional funding.

"I know it's something that will make a big difference to the community and families here."

Half of Hankinson House's residential space has sat empty since the $6.7-million building opened in 2014. Hankinson House, which fronts on Grey Street and sits on the property of St. Joseph's Lifecare Centre, was built for 10 residential hospice beds, despite approval from the ministry for only six.

Hospice officials had been hopeful for additional provincial funding.

"Anything that is worthwhile is worth fighting for," Levac told the gathering.

"We're a beacon to people in the province for hospice palliative care."

Michael Shea, chairman of the board for the Hamilton, Niagara, Haldimand Brant Local Health Integration Network, thanked the government for extending the extra funding.

"This marks another day of celebration," he said.

Cheryl Moore, the hospice's executive director, said the funding will help the facility deliver even better services.

"We offer so much more than end of life beds. We like to get involved as soon as there is a diagnosis. But we need those end of life beds. We will prove every day that this money is well used."

Hankinson House was built as a successor to the original Stedman hospice, also on the grounds of the lifecare centre, which opened in March 2006.

Construction of Hankinson House was funded entirely by community fundraising.
St. Joe's to open day wellness program

St. Joe's to open day wellness program
Published on Thursday,30 June, 2016

St. Joseph's Lifecare Centre is opening a day wellness program for seniors in September.

The program will be located in Stedman House on the centre's Wayne Gretzky Parkway property, city councillors were told this week.

The new program is among plans for St. Joseph's that were shared with councillors by Derrick Bernardo, the lifecare centre's president.

"The day wellness program will reach out to those seniors experiencing social isolation and those with mental-health problems," Bernardo said during a presentation.

"It will be able to accommodate up to 75 people each week. Programming will focus on nurturing the mind, body and soul."

Money to operate the program, which will cost $50,000 a year, will come for the first two years from the St. Joseph's Lifecare Foundation.

Stedman House is already home to kidney and continence care clinics, both of which serve residents of the St. Joseph's long-term care facility and the broader community, Bernardo said.

"Our goal is to bring care close to home."

St. Joseph's is exploring other potential uses for its property, which also is home to the Hankinson House hospice. Senior officials are looking at various options following a community health-care needs assessment, said Bernardo.

More than 30,000 people visited St. Joseph's for service other than long-term care in 2015, Bernardo told councillors.

Just over 100 patients were admitted to the hospice for care in 2015, while 79 new residents were admitted to the long-term care facility. There are 147 people on a wait list for long-term care beds at St. Joseph's.

More than 870 palliative care patients received treatment through the facility's outreach program and on site,

St. Joseph's offers 22 community services.

St. Joseph's also has introduced horticultural therapy and a new suite for medical students.

"To date, we have attracted five physicians to the lifecare centre and the ... hospice," Bernardo said.

"Our on-site physicians have taken a leadership role in educating and mentoring new doctors and medical students in the area of hospice, palliative, seniors and primary care."

Bernardo said the centre is looking for new ways to serve the community.
Hospice Funding Boost

Hospice Funding Boost
Published on Wednesday,15 June, 2016

Stedman Community Hospice officials are pleased with a funding boost announced by the provincial government on Tuesday.

But the president of St. Joseph's Lifecare Centre, which operates the hospice, is hoping for even more good news soon

"We know that the provincial government's review of end-of-life care in the province has been completed and we remain hopeful that we'll be able to get funding for the additional beds," Derrick Bernardo said.

"It's our understanding that there could be an announcement soon."

At issue is provincial funding for all of the beds available at the new Hankinson House.

At present, the hospice receives funding for six of the 10 beds. The additional four beds were created when Hankinson House was built with the help of donations from the community raised by the Foundation. However, those beds were created with no commitment of funding from the province.

While hospice officials await word on funding for the additional beds, Bernardo said he is pleased with an extra $90,000 a year funding boost from the province.

"We are so grateful for the additional funding to support the nursing component of our residential hospice program," Bernardo said. "This is big news because it allows us to maintain the quality of care, including nursing care, that we are providing to our patients.

"I would like to applaud the provincial government for continuing to commit to the transformation of our health-care system to one that focuses on putting the needs of our patients at its centre."

The additional funding is a first step by the province to increase investment in hospice and palliative care across the province by $75 million over the next three years. The increased investment was included in the province's 2016 budget.

As part of that plan, the province is increasing funding for existing hospice beds to $15,000 per adult bed and $22,400 per pediatric bed.

The funding announcement was made by Kathryn McGarry, the MPP for Cambridge who, on Monday, was named Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry in the new cabinet of Premier Kathleen Wynne.

McGarry, who has a nursing background, said that she helped found a Waterloo Region hospice in the mid-1990s.

"Hospice care is an absolutely crucial service to have in the community," she said. "It's something that is very close to my heart and I'm proud to be part of a government that is investing in compassionate support for those at the end of life's journey.

"This is important and is beneficial not only to the patients in our health-care system, but to their families and our communities."

Brant MPP Dave Levac said that the hospice has become a key part of the community.

"The entire community has embraced the desire to provide this very important service," Levac said. "This announcement is gratefully received as we continue to build hospice services for the community."

Cheryl Moore, executive director of the hospice, thanked McGarry and Levac for their support. She also paid tribute to the staff and volunteers.

"We have an incredible team of staff and volunteers within our St. Joseph's system, foundation and hospice whom we call our hospice family," Moore said. "I want to acknowledge them today."'
Hundreds join Hike for Hospice

Hundreds join Hike for Hospice
Published on Monday, 2 May, 2016

It's called Stedman Community Hospice but for Elaine Schelhas it will always be the house of angels.

"Make that the awesome house of angels," Schelhas said Sunday prior to the annual Hike for Hospice. "They don't have volunteers or staff here.

"They have angels - people who help you get through the most difficult times."

It was one staff member in particular - Sandee McGahey - whose compassion and empathy will remain with Schelhas forever.

"My husband, Don, was only in the hospice for a couple of days," Schelhas said. "I remember the night when we knew that he was going to pass and Sandee told me that I could be here or go home - it was my choice.

"I went home but felt compelled to come back and, when I did, when I came into his room there was Sandee, holding his hand."

Don died in July of 2013. He was 63.

"I'm just so grateful to her and everyone at the hospice for what they did for me and my family and that Sandee was there with me when Don passed," Schelhas said, adding that the staff were also there back in 2008 when her sister, Carolyn Burnett, received her end-of-life care at the hospice.

Schelhas was one of many people to participate in the 12th annual Stedman Community Hike for Hospice on Sunday despite the cool, damp weather. When Schelhas arrived for Sunday's hike, one of the first people she met was McGahey. They hugged and shared a moment just like the many other families who participated in the hike.

The event raises money to support the many programs and services offered by the hospice, including an outreach program that provides end-of-life care to people in their homes. The hospice also provides educational and bereavement programs.

Organizers were thrilled to report that the hike raised $281,094, exceeding its fundraising goal of $280,000.

Although the weather was cloudy at the beginning of the walk, the parking lot at St. Joseph's Lifecare Centre was bright as walkers wore the yellow T-shirts that are synonymous with the event. Many families participated, including Evan's Army - family members and friends of Evan Leversage, the little boy whose battle with cancer brought together a community.

Evan, who was terminally ill with an inoperable brain tumour, inspired thousands to celebrate an early Christmas in St. George last October. Evan died on Dec. 6 at the hospice and his family has spoken about how the staff restore hope to those in despair.

Everyone participating in the hike had a story, including David Elkin.

Elkin, 82, is a volunteer with the hospice day program, as well as the men's bereavement program.

His daughter, Tara, who had been undergoing months of cancer treatment, received her end-of-life care at the hospice.

"She was born and raised in Brantford but was living out of town when she got sick," Elkin said. "She was getting treatment and I used to go visit her and help out when I could."

I tried to remain hopeful that she would beat the cancer but she looked at me and told me that her time was coming. I checked into it and they said the hospice is for people of Brantford and Brant County and their families and, because she was born and raised here, she could come to the hospice."

Elkin still remembers the day she arrived.

"She was dropped off at the hospice and then her husband came to get me so that we could go visit her together. I'll never forget it.

"When we got here, she was all settled in and when we walked into her room, she looked up, smiled, gave us a thumbs up and said 'I'm home.'"
Inspiring support for Stedman Community Hospice

Inspiring support for Stedman Community Hospice
Published on Friday,29 April, 2016

Written by Mike Peeling, Brant News
When Lesley Lehmann first came to Stedman Community Hospice's Hankinson House in Brantford, she didn't know what to expect and was at the lowest point in her life.
Along with family, she was there to say goodbye to her mother Shelley.
Shelley was only 56, but had been diagnosed with stage 4 brain cancer months before arriving at the hospice in the summer of 2015.
"I was very lonely and very vulnerable when I walked into the hospice," Lehmann said. "Someone was there to give me a hug, a cup of tea and a cookie. Someone sat with me and I felt more at ease than I had in almost a year."
Before that day, Lehmann was aware of Stedman Community Hospice - an end-of-life care facility available at no charge to residents of Brantford, Brant, Norfolk, Haldimand, Six Nations and New Credit - because of an aunt who volunteers there, but knew little else. Almost a year later, the one-of-a-kind palliative care facility has made an indelible impression on her and her family.
Shelley stayed in room 5 of Hankinson House, which opened in 2014 thanks to a successful fundraising campaign to build the $6.7 million, 10-bed facility to replace the original hospice.
To deliver the high level of care the hospice is known for, for people of all ages, with all kinds of terminal illnesses, St. Joseph's Lifecare Centre Foundation has a fundraising goal of $2.2 million annually, according president and CEO Olga Consorti.
Events such as Hike for Hospice, which raised $275,000 last year, are especially vital to helping achieve that goal because the hospice has no other source of funding, except for limited government funding for nursing costs.
"It's an incredible testament to the community," Consorti said. "We cannot not succeed. If we don't hit those targets, we'll end up having to close those beds."
"People often say to me, What's my little $20 donation going to do? Well we rely on this little donations. They really add up."
And Lehmann testifies to fact that all of the little donations pay off at the hospice.
"It's not a traditional sort of hospice," Lehmann said. "There's a layer of compassion to the staff and volunteers that allows families to be families there."
Now when Lehmann looks back at that first day in the hospice, she refers to it as "when we joined the family here."
Lehmann's father Jamie had been his wife's primary caregiver for six months before an ambulance took her to Hankinson House.
"It was obviously getting too difficult for my dad," she said.
Shelley had already benefitted from the hospice's outreach program in the form of a few visits from a home care nurse.
St. Joseph's Lifecare Centre, which runs the hospice along with a long-term care facility at the corner of Wayne Gretzky Parkway and Grey Street, has run the first-of-its-kind outreach program in Ontario since 2008 and made 300,000 home visits. The outreach program can send a physician, nurse and social support to a patient's home to provide pain and symptom management.  
"There's a lot our outreach program can do before a patient ever comes to the hospice," Consorti said, noting it offers grief counseling from the moment of diagnosis for patients dealing with all kinds of loss, such as the ability to work, drive or do regular activities.  
Lehmann says it's important for residents of not just Brantford but of Brant, Norfolk, Haldimand, Six Nations and New Credit to know about the outreach program and the hospice because they are available to them as well.
Shelley's son Matthew was due to get married after Shelley arrived at the hospice, and he wanted her to be a part of the big day.
So the family, hospice staff and volunteers all worked together to hold a ceremony for Matthew and his bride Kelly and a catered meal at the hospice.  
"It was a lovely day, so beautiful," Lehmann said. "It was perfect given the circumstances."
But miraculously, Shelley lived at the hospice for six months, which is "very unique," according to Consorti.
"Typically the longest a patient is with us is three months," she said. "The average is less than two weeks."
Consorti marveled at how Shelley rallied against her fatal condition for half a year at the hospice.
"I like to think it's because of the support she got here from the staff, volunteers and experts, and the help and love of her family," she said.
Lehmann said she worried about people's perception of her mother being in the hospice for so long, but wants people to understand her mother and family were blessed to have the hospice.
When Matthew's wedding day came around, Shelley wanted to be there, but was physically unable to leave the hospice. Instead, Lehmann's paternal aunt Christine Nechelput carried around an iPad throughout the ceremony, using video chat to let Shelley watch her son get married.
"The entire building was abuzz helping my mom get beautiful for the wedding," Lehmann said. "My mom felt very important that day. We were so relieved the staff and volunteers were there for her because we weren't able to be there as much."
Lehmann's family plans to be at the Hike for Hospice with a team called Williams Walkers, after Shelley's maiden name.
And Jamie continues to volunteer at the Stedman Community Hospice, particularly in the gardens. Jamie and Shelley Lehmann ran a greenhouse together for many of their 40 years together.
To participate or donate to the Hike for Hospice, visit or call 519-751-7096 ext. 2475. Learn more at
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