St. Joseph’s Hospice provides compassionate care and support to people living with a terminal illness, their family, caregivers, and those grieving the loss of a loved one. Care is provided at no cost in our 10-suite residence, wellness centre, and in the community, and is only possible thanks to the generous support we receive from donors who help us raise the $1.3 million needed each year.
What is Hospice Palliative Care?
Hospice palliative care is aimed at relief of suffering and improving the quality of life for persons who are living with or dying from advanced illness or are bereaved.
– Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association
Palliative care is a special kind of health care for individuals and families who are living with a life-limiting illness that is usually at an advanced stage. The goal of palliative care is to provide comfort and dignity for the person living with the illness as well as the best quality of life for both this person and his or her family.
At St. Joseph’s Hospice, we focus on caring for the whole person and their family – not only their physical needs, but also psychological, social, cultural, emotional and spiritual needs. Palliative care may be the main focus of care when a cure for the illness is no longer possible and helps people who are ill to live out their remaining time in comfort and dignity.
Quality hospice palliative care neither hastens death or prolongs life. The goal of hospice palliative care is to improve the quality of life for patients and their families facing problems associated with life-threatening illness.
Hospice palliative care services are helpful not only when a person is approaching death but also during the earlier stages of an illness, such as our Volunteer Visiting Program. Families also benefit from support when their loved one is dying and after their death, such as our Supportive Care programs and services.
History of St. Joseph’s Hospice
A discussion between two local women, Jackie Mackenzie and AJ McKechnie, helped to identify a gap of care for those living with a terminal illness within London, Ontario. The recognition of need turned into the dream of offering innovative programming focusing on the unique needs of each person during their palliative care journey. Their dream was Hospice.
Jackie Mackenzie, an assistant nursing supervisor with a community agency, first heard of hospice palliative care when a family member was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The family member was referred to Hospice of Windsor, where they received specialized care that focused on enhancing quality of life for the time they had remaining. What impressed Jackie was the involvement of the family as an integral part of the care team.
Jackie’s experience with hospice care helped her to realize the importance of talking about death with her family and living each day to its fullest. Her new-found passion for hospice palliative care motivated her to search out organizations in London that provided the same kind of care her family member received in Windsor. She was astonished to discover that no community-based hospice existed.
Realizing the benefits that a hospice would bring to London, she, along with a former colleague, AJ McKechnie, took up the torch and in 1983 began the long process of establishing Hospice. AJ had been highly involved in volunteer and donor recruitment at a community agency and was able to bring together a number of interested members of the business and health care communities to act as the founding Board of Directors.
Their passionate commitment and drive to bring their dream to life took hold in 1983, when both women were granted free office space to operate their community hospice. Two offices in the nursing quarters across from Victoria Hospital on South Street was the very first location for their newly formed Hospice of London.
We were successful in recruiting volunteers to serve on the newly formed Board of Directors and to provide in-home care to palliative individuals. We both had high expectations with the ultimate goal of building a free-standing residence where people could live out their final days.
Both women quickly realized the importance of having their dream seen as a legitimate partner in health care provision, so they incorporated Hospice of London as a registered charitable organization in 1985. Fifteen people took the specialized volunteer visitation training offered by the newly incorporated Hospice of London and began providing direct client care soon afterwards.
We had limited resources. We were creative and formed partnerships with organizations that believed in our cause. Our first training session was held in the Dundas United Church. They offered the basement free of charge for our volunteer training sessions. The first group was composed of approximately 15 volunteers. We brought in homemade snacks and paid for any expenses out of our own pockets.
Over time, demand for this specialized in-home palliative care service increased. More volunteers were needed to provide relaxation, peer support, and specialized therapies for clients and families. Hospice was growing and new sources of revenue and volunteers were needed to meet the rising demand for service. Jackie and the Hospice Board turned to the community for support. Service clubs, community groups and local businesses answered by opening their hearts and wallets.
We did a lot of public speaking to foundations and potential corporate partners. At first people felt uncomfortable discussing the topic of palliative care. It took a lot of hard work and educational discussions, but the cheques started to role in.
Hospice of London applied to become a United Way Agency and received its first venture grant in 1986 to support the community visiting program.
Hospice of London purchased 837 Talbot Street. The property was renovated and new additions, like the elevator shaft, therapeutic gardens and Memory walkway were constructed. Many of the original unique nuances made the house comfortable for all our clients.
This building had a rich history and unique architectural features, combining the elegance of the past with the beauty and convenience of the present. The ownership of the property dates back to 1836, when Joseph B. Askin bought the two-acre riverside parcel of land. In 1855 the Middlesex Agriculture Society bought the property and the site became London’s original Fair Grounds, with an elaborate exhibition hall, known as Simcoe Castle.
Around the time of Confederation, the Agriculture Society abandoned the property and Simcoe Castle fell into disrepair. In 1912 Edward Reid of the London Life Insurance Company purchased the property and began revitalization. He tore down the remains of Simcoe Castle and preserved 220,000 of the old bricks to use in the construction of the new building.
This two and one-half story, four-bedroom home, with its heavy end chimneys and four Dutch dormers, is described as Classical or Georgian Revival. It was by far the largest home of what was then known as Great Talbot Street and became known as the Great Talbot Street Estate.
Three generations of the Reid Family grew up in the house until it was sold to the London Life Company in the early 1970s. Mr. James Cross, a senior London Life Executive, moved into the home and purchased it from the company in 1983. It was during this time that the house went through another reconstruction phase.
For more than a decade, the house was a ‘home away from home’ for our palliative and bereaved clients.
On April, 1, 2012, St. Joseph’s Health Care Society and Hospice of London entered into a partnership to develop a new 10 bed residential hospice. The two organizations joined forces and legally became St. Joseph’s-Hospice of London, now shortened to St. Joseph’s Hospice.
For over 25 years, Hospice of London provided palliative, caregiver, and bereavement support to hundreds of clients and families in the City of London. St. Joseph’s Health Care Society had experience of developing a hospice residence in Sarnia which opened in the Fall of 2009. The two organizations are a perfect fit.
On May 15, 2013, St. Joseph’s Hospice and the Sisters of St. Joseph entered into a lease agreement at the Sisters Residence on 485 Windermere Road in North London. St. Joseph’s Hospice relocated its offices, programs and services to Windermere Road in December 2013. The new Residential Hospice opened on January 13, 2014 and the first resident was welcomed on February 20, 2014.
What makes this new relationship so unique?
The mission of St. Joseph’s Hospice and the Sisters of St. Joseph are synonymous. The Sisters see the whole world as their neighbourhood, and they strive daily to become the change they seek in the world. They were the pioneers of healthcare in our area beginning in the 1800s and have always given particular attention to the “dear neighbor.” Likewise, St. Joseph’s Hospice tends to the dying, the bereaved, and their families at one of the most vulnerable times in their lives, regardless gender, religion, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity or economic status – our “dear neighbours.”
St. Joseph’s Hospice moved to this green building which was designed with gold LEED® standards (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). The Hospice is utilizing space in a functional building that already exists. This is a responsible alternative to the original plan to build on a green field site.
While palliative services are offered in each of the acute care hospitals, hospice care embodies a unique philosophy that provides a range of supportive services that focus on the whole person (body, mind, spirit) and extends this support to loved ones. In collaboration with physicians and other care providers, care is provided in a home-like environment where adults with life-threatening illness receive compassionate end-of-life care services. In addition to the emotional support, pain management, and complementary therapies, our philosophy is to ensure life is lived, right to the end.
St. Joseph’s Hospice is a local charitable organization that provides compassionate care for people living with a life-limiting illness. Support is extended to their family members and caregivers, as well as to those grieving the loss of a loved one. Hospice programs and services are offered at no cost for the London-Middlesex community and are available irrespective of gender, religion, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity or economic status.