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Practical Insights for Busy Caregivers

Feels like home at Sakura House Hospice


July 1, 2013, by Laura Downs

Watching a movie, sitting on the patio, reading the newspaper and chatting at the kitchen table are some of the comforts of home, especially when surrounded by loved ones. Sakura House Hospice in Woodstock, Ontario aims to help patients and their families feel like they’re still at home by enabling them to do all of those things, even as they experience end-of-life care.
The 10-bed residential hospice, operated by VON Oxford, is the only overnight hospice in Oxford County. Sakura House was founded in 2009 and serves about 200 residential patients a year. Care is provided by registered nurses, registered practical nurses, personal support workers, physicians and (professionally) trained volunteers. The focus of care is giving residents quality of life.

"If they want chocolate cake for breakfast, they can have chocolate cake for breakfast,” says Helen Vink, Hospice Care Coordinator. “It’s about quality of life and whatever that person wants or needs. It’s a broad circle of care and very patient- and family-centred. They don’t change just because they are entering the end of life. They are still the same people.”

The beauty of the facility is further enhanced by the smaller touches, like toys in the TV room, a library full of books, and the honour guard ceremony that all staff members and volunteers participate in when a patient passes away.

"You come in through the front door, and you leave through the front door," says Vink.

A volunteer makes sandwiches in the shared kitchen space available for families to gather and eat meals.

Each private patient room includes a sofa bed, recliner, fridge, microwave, private bathroom, television and patio. Patients stay an average of 17 days. There is no cost for care at Sakura House and the hospice is largely funded by donors and fundraisers with nursing care covered by the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care through the South West CCAC.

Currently, there are about 200 active volunteers who work rotating shifts, and they do everything from greeting families at the door and preparing meals, to sitting with patients and families during the patients' final hours.

"Volunteers usually get involved because they know somebody who was in the hospice or they used the services themselves. They soon fall in love with the place," says Volunteer Coordinator Nancy Clark.

When supporting family members and talking to volunteers, Clark recognizes the importance of care for the caregiver.

"We definitely emphasize self-care and even emphasize to our own staff that you can’t support someone else if you don’t support yourself. We make sure that everyone is given effective self-care strategies."

Learn more about hospice and end-of-life care in the Find Services section.