It’s human nature to have a fear of the unknown, with the topics of death and mortality often being viewed as uncomfortable and avoided by most.
The Townsend Smith Foundation (TSF) is hoping to change this narrative as it seeks support to build north Halton’s first hospice residence at Trafalgar Road and 5 Sideroad - land currently occupied by Hillcrest United Church.
The facility will provide 24-hour palliative care for those with a life-limiting illness and support services for their loved ones.
“We do all this planning for new life, but when it comes to end of life, we avoid it. We’re not the best planners, we don’t like to talk about it, and yet 100 per cent of us die,” said TSF executive director Theresa Greer.
“All that support that’s around for new babies and new moms - to me, that’s what hospice is all about. It’s providing that kind of community and supporting individuals and families at end of life. I'd like to see a lot more of that.”
The TSF signed an agreement this spring with the church to purchase the property and redevelop it for a 10-bed community hospice facility.
Now, the charitable organization is looking to secure a critical zoning bylaw amendment from the Town of Halton Hills to bring its vision one step closer to reality.
“We are extremely hopeful about the Hillcrest Church site being approved because it’s so well-situated for a lot of people,” said board secretary Holly Lillico.
The TSF is also spreading the word about its major project in the Halton Hills community as it strives to receive grassroots support from residents, similar to what it’s already achieved in Milton.
“We’re going to need the community because it’s not a one and done deal with hospice,” said Greer. “We’re truly reliant on the community because all aspects of hospice involve volunteers, from the board to bedside care to fundraising. Although we will have professional staff, there’s still that need for community involvement and there always will be. It’s a critical part of hospice care.”
At this stage, the TSF is seeking community advocates and volunteers for events, in addition to donations.
Upcoming fundraisers include the Compassion Classic Golf Tournament at Granite Ridge Golf Course on Aug. 25 and HerQuest for Hospice - an Amazing Race style of event in Milton on Sept. 17.
Once operational, it’s estimated that the 10-bed hospice will require up to 250 volunteers to do everything from answering phones and sitting at residents’ bedsides to playing music and cooking - essentially all aspects outside of medical care.
Currently, local residents seeking hospice care are forced to leave the community and travel to Caledon, Guelph, Oakville and Burlington.
Others find themselves spending their final days in a hospital bed due to the lack of hospice spaces available nearby.
Greer said the current pressures on the healthcare system only emphasize the need for more hospices.
The operational cost of a hospice bed is one-third of a hospital bed, noted Lillico.
“When acute care isn’t needed, this (hospice care) is taking pressure off the healthcare system by providing appropriate care,” she said.
The women expressed their gratitude for Mayor Rick Bonnette’s public acknowledgement and support of the TSF hospice project. They also encouraged residents to voice their support for the facility by speaking to their local councillors.
Going forward, Greer said there will be opportunities for residents to share what they envision for the hospice at the design stage.
For further details, visit townsend-smith.ca.