Philip on ski patrol at Silver Star Mountain Resort
We first met with Philip Pool and his family in late January, 2010, while Philip was a Hospice House resident. Philip’s wife Debra and three of their six children, Gillian 17, Thomas 14 and Matthew 12 were present to share their Hospice experiences with us. Their eldest child, Andrew 19, was competing in Lake Placid, New York, as part of the Can West Provincial Mogul Team and he participated in this article via email.
Philip was originally at Hospice for a five day respite admission to monitor a change in his cancer medication. Although the Pools had some prior contact with hospice palliative care through family and friends, this was their first experience with Hospice House.
“We were switching the medication so that we could make our last Christmas together the best Christmas ever,” states Debra. “We were surprised when our family physician suggested that Philip apply for a day pass at Christmas, instead of coming home to stay. We were going to nurse him at home, but once we saw how comfortable the kids were at Hospice House, it made sense for him to stay.”
Philip’s whole family has been part of his care plan. They are relieved at how open and individualized it is. Philip was able to go home for Christmas, New Year’s, as well as additional days when he could. “Hospice is a house that’s open with the thought of regular life,” states Debra.
“I am able to be his wife and not have to be his caregiver. There is so much peace for me at night when I leave, I don’t have to worry about him,” says Debra. “Hospice House is your home. It’s a place where you can treat your days as normal as possible until the end. The time spent with Philip at Hospice is quality time. The kids can come and visit, do puzzles and even stay overnight in Philip’s room.”
“We can visit him without having to deal with the hard parts,” explains Gillian. “Hospice has really helped my peace of mind in knowing that my dad has everything he needs at his disposal to comfortably spend each day that I cannot be with him,” says Andrew.
The Pools have hosted dinner parties and maintained date nights while at Hospice. Philip and Debra’s 11 year old daughter, Elizabeth, has learning disabilities, but the Pools have never had to worry about her while visiting Hospice. She has helped volunteers at mealtime and in folding laundry. “This just reinforces the whole family environment,” explains Debra.
“Hospice House is equipped to allow you to maintain as much independence and dignity you can handle,” says Philip. “The amount of staff and volunteer support at Hospice is outstanding and the facility is always immaculate. There are always choices at mealtime, they try and accommodate you in any way possible. You don’t feel like you’re in an institution. I like that I can have a bath when it’s convenient for me and the staff, not just because Monday night is bath night.”
“Hospice House is a gift to the community,” remarks Debra, “our friends have been so moved when they come and see how lovely it is. There may be apprehension for some before they walk through the doors, but once you are at Hospice there is a peace that only exists at Hospice. I believe that my kids will have the best memories possible, while watching their father pass away.”
Debra and Gillian are touched by the compassion of both staff and volunteers. Gillian smiles as she remembers coming in one day to see a nurse rubbing Philip’s feet with cream to help his circulation. Debra is interested in taking the volunteer training at some point and is aware of the integral part volunteers play in all programs and services at Hospice and in the community. “I was so moved when I attended one of the volunteer-run memorial services that take place here every two months.”
Grief and bereavement counselling services are available at Hospice. Debra took advantage of the anticipatory grief counselling services when she first received the news that Philip wasn't going to be going home. The kids haven’t accessed Hospice counselling services yet, as they have been supported by family, friends, McMurtry Baerg Cancer Centre and school counsellors.
Philip’s journey was made complete with Debra and Andrew by his side on March 15. Gillian was on her way from work and Thomas was arriving from Ontario at 7:30 pm. At Debra’s request, Hospice staff kept Philip at Hospice until Thomas could come and say good-bye. “There’s a beautiful continuity with Hospice,” explains Debra, “there’s the same compassion and dignity for everyone who experiences it.”
The Pool family has donated to Hospice in the past and will continue to do so through memorial giving on Philip’s behalf. Hospice relies on the generosity of the community to ensure the delivery of quality programs and services.
“Hospice allows you to live life to the fullest, until the end, whether it’s 3 or 20 weeks. Everyone at Hospice works together to achieve the same goal,” reflected Philip, “to provide quality end of life care.”