Val Hilario, the hospice’s new expansion campaign co-ordinator is looking forward to being able to accommodate more people and programs. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

WATCH: Red Deer Hospice moves forward with $5.2 million expansion

Six additional rooms and family spaces are being added

The Red Deer Hospice plans to expand to help more terminally ill Central Albertans spend their final days in an uplifting, calm and supportive setting.

The hospice in the Anders neighbourhood is at more than 90 per cent occupancy, “and we don’t want to be in the position of having to send people away,”said out-going executive-director Val Hilario, who’s moving into the new role of expansion campaign co-ordinator.

She noted an average of 100 people in their last stage of life move into the hospice each year for a few days or up to a few months. With the city’s growing and aging population those numbers are only going to increase in years to come, she added.

Plans are underway for a $5.2 million expansion that will be able to accommodate 165 people annually. It will include six addition bedrooms (bringing the total to 16), as well as enhanced family areas, including living rooms, quiet areas, a coffee bar, and dedicated sanctuary space.

A new multi-purpose room will allow for more educational opportunities, respite care and day programming, while a basement renovation will create a dedicated staff area and more storage room for medical equipment.

Although a lot of community fundraising will be needed to pay for the project, the Red Deer Twilight Homes Foundation got the campaign off to a big start with a $300,000 donation to be made over three years.

Larry Pimm, vice-chair of the Foundation, said Twilight homes supports seniors’ housing options and a hospice is another part of the continuum. “We celebrate your continuing success,” he added, noting 1,200 individuals benefitted from the facility since it opened in 2005.

Hilario credited Twilight Homes for being a wonderful support from the start, having pledged $250,000 for the original construction cost of the hospice.

So far, about $1 million has been raised for the expansion, counting other community donations, she added.

The project would not be possible without an new operating funding agreement with Alberta Health Services, said James McPherson, chair of the hospice expansion board.

AHS is going to be funding a bigger share of operating costs once the new beds are built: “It works out to be something like 70 per cent from the government and 30 per cent from the community,” said McPherson, instead of the current 40 per cent government, 60 per cent community split.

He credited Red Deer’s MLAs Barb Miller and Kim Schreiner for their strong support for the project.

“We all wish to face death with dignity, compassion and serenity,” said Miller, and that is what the hospice offers.

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