Spring for the hospice

The Red Deer Hospice Society is paying for a big chunk of its work these days with sweet pea and morel cappuccino soup.

The Red Deer Hospice Society is paying for a big chunk of its work these days with sweet pea and morel cappuccino soup.

That one small item kicked off a fanciful menu Thursday night at the Hospice Society’s ninth annual Spring Gala, the biggest single fundraiser of the year for the organization and one that accounts for 10 per cent of its annual budget.

“Last year was a record year. We netted over $130,000 (at the gala),” Brenda Watts, executive director of the Hospice Society, said Thursday as she and gala organizing committee chairwoman Edie Hiebert rushed around with Red Deer Lodge staff making everything perfect.

The Hospice Society has a budget of $1.1 million, with about $700,000 having to be raised through donations and events like the gala. Alberta Health Services also provides funding.

The $130,000 that was raised last year paid for operational costs so the hospice, located at 99 Arnot Ave., could provide end-of-life care for the 58 residents who at different times occupied the building’s 10 beds. More than 200 residents have stayed there 2005.

Watts reasons that since palliative care studies have shown each death affects the well-being of up to five individuals, the hospice has affected well over 1,000 people. The hospice is there not only to help the dying, but to help their loved ones, she added.

“We look at obstacles to healthy grief: workplace absences, alcohol and drug abuse, things like that that can affect people when they are depressed or suffering through unhealthy grief. So part of our journey is to help the family come to terms with the death and support them after the death as well,” said Watts.

The Hospice Society is a nonprofit and personal finances have no bearing on admission to the facility and there is no cost to stay there, Watts said.

But still, more people could take up their services. At any given time, an average of six beds are occupied, Hiebert said, although that number can fluctuate regularly up to eight or nine and down to four or five.

The challenge, both agree, is one with which they’re very familiar: the need to educate the public on end-of-life care.

mgauk@bprda.wpengine.com