Shannon Todd Booth, left, and her daughter Hope Booth were helping out with yard work at the Langley Hospice Society’s Supportive Program Centre on Thursday, April 2. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)

Langley hospice mission continues amid COVID-19 crisis

Technology is being used to reach out to people in need of help with grieving

Grief and isolation are often companions, which is why the Langley Hospice Society is still trying to do its work through trying times.

At the hospice residence itself, on the grounds of Langley Memorial Hospital, volunteers can no longer go into the building.

“I struggle so much with not being able to be there,” said Fernande Ouelette, the society’s palliative program co-ordinator.

The restrictions, as with all hospital settings, are very strict now, Ouelette said.

Until a week ago, on March 26, up to five family members could visit hospice residents, provided it was different times.

Now the limit is one visit from one family member per day.

Volunteers are not allowed in during ht eday at all.

Ouelette droped off a card earlier this week that was signed and had messages from dozens of Langley Hospice Society volunteers.

She said they want to be there to support patients and staff, but they can’t be.

Also shut down for now is the Second Storey Treasures thrift shop in Walnut Grove, said Shannon Todd Booth, the head of communications for hospice.

Doors have closed and staff have had to go home, with some laid off, as most non-essential shops have closed their doors. The store manager is using the time to paint inside the store and get it ready for a re-opening when the crisis passes.

The closure will have an impact on funding for Langley Hospice Society, said Todd Booth.

“That’s representative of more than 35 per cent of our operational budget,” she said.

But for the most part, the Hospice Society is trying to keep doing much of its work through the crisis.

In a letter to hospice volunteers and supporters this week, executive director Carissa Halley noted that these were were “far from normal times.”

“Through all of this the Langley Hospice Society remains committed to providing caring and compassionate support to help people live with dignity and hope while coping with grief and the end of life,” Halley wrote to her team. “Grief and social isolation can be difficult companions, and we realize our services are needed now more than ever.”

That’s why the volunteers and staff are still running many of their grief support programs, although now largely through online forums.

“We are providing support and services to our community remotely via phone or video conferencing at this time,” Halley said.

Staff are using programs such as Facetime or Zoom to stay in touch with adult bereavement clients of the society, and social media is being used to conduct “virtual storytimes” daily for younger clients. The videos have been seen thousands of times so far, Halley reported.

“I would like to thank our program staff for their dedication and creativity that has enabled us to provide this continued support,” she wrote.

Todd Booth noted that if this pandemic had taken place 20 years ago, there simply wouldn’t have been the same tools available to support people.

“Even in social isolation, social connection is possible,” she said. “That connection is really important.”

In grief support in particular, connecting with someone who cares can be vital.

The volunteers who do much of the work are also in the thoughts of the leaders at the Langley Hospice Society right now, Todd Booth said.

Many have been helping hospice and its clients for years.

“That was a lot of their social connection,” Todd Booth said.

So reaching out to those volunteers is also important right now.

“We miss all of you terribly and cannot wait to welcome each of you back to work with us soon,” Halley wrote in her email to volunteers. “Please reach out to us if you would like to talk to someone at this time. We are here for you, just as you have always been here for us.”

The society has also had to switch its Plates and Glasses gala to a delivery model, planning for a virtual “Gala-to-go” on Saturday, April 18.

READ MORE: Langley Hospice decides to give their gala to go

And a few duties have changed. With cuts to yard work at the hospice’s Supportive Program Centre in Langley City, Todd Booth was headed out there on Thursday herself to clean up trimmed branches and oversee the delivery of some donated mulch.

Anyone still in need of grief support is still asked to call the Langley Hospice Society at 604-530-1115, or email lindasheridan@langleyhospice.com or fernandeouellette@langleyhospice.com.

For child and youth support, email Ria Brand at riabrand@langleyhospice.com.

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