When Ray Sutherland was told he didn’t have long to live, he and his wife, Marian, were at a loss for what they would do.
The couple shared a home with their son, and Ray, concerned about what the experience would do to his grandchild, was adamant he would not die at home. But the thought of having to go into a hospice facility in Victoria’s Royal Jubilee Hospital was also not what the couple wanted, either.
Marian knew that the two hours she’d spend in the car each day would limit the amount of time she could spend with her husband in his last days.
That’s when they learned about what Marian Sutherland calls a hidden gem right in her own backyard.
“They told me that there were hospice beds in Sooke, at Ayre Manor. I had no idea,” Sutherland said. “Here was this wonderful resource right in our community, and I’d never known that it existed. We have to change that.”
Kerry Williams, director of administration at Ayre Manor, said hospice care at the manor is not as well-known as he’d like.
He said the two-bed space, created in 2017, has an occupancy rate that hovers around 60 per cent.
“The doctors in the community know about us, as does the Sooke Hospice Society, and they do make referrals to Ayre Manor,” Williams said. “But unless people get a referral – if they are receiving care in Victoria, for example – they might not learn that we exist.”
Hospice care at Ayre Manor includes 24/7 care by RNs and LPNs who are specially trained in end of life care. Meals are provided, each room has its own washroom and private entrance and cots are provided for family members who wish to spend the night.
“When you go into our hospice rooms, the first thing you notice is that they are not at all like hospital rooms,” Williams said. “We want people to feel at home.”
Another important component of the service is that the physical care of the person in care is all taken care of by staff.
“When you have a loved one at home at the end of their lives a lot of energy goes into care. Feeding them, helping them go to the washroom, preparing meals, and a hundred other tasks. It can be exhausting,” Williams said.
“Once in Hospice, all of that burden is taken off (of loved ones) and they can focus on just loving that person and the emotional process of passing.”
For Sutherland, the experience at Ayre Manor was akin to being adopted by a surrogate family.
“All the staff were so wonderful. They allowed Ray to keep his dignity right to the end – his dignity and his humour,” Sutherland said.
“But people need to know that the service exists here in Sooke. If it’s not used, then there’s always a chance that it’s lost and that would be terrible.”
On Wednesday, Health Minister Adrian Dix announced that 15 new palliative care beds would be added to those that already in place at Royal Jubilee Hospital.
As well, Island Health, in partnership with Victoria Hospice, is adding eight new community hospice beds to Victoria Hospice, and seven new acute palliative beds, to create a new palliative and supportive care unit at the Royal Jubilee Hospital.