IN NORTH America, end-of-life care is often an unknown and not understood until it is a reality faced by ourselves or our loved ones. At St. Joseph’s Care Group (SJCG), hospice and palliative care are delivered by a diverse group of skilled professionals. The care team can include palliative physicians, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, registered nurses, registered practical nurses, rehabilitation assistants, social workers, registered dietitians, speech language pathologists and spiritual care associates.

We spoke to some of the team members at St. Joseph’s Hospital to get a better picture of what hospice and palliative care looks like:

Randy Middleton is the Clinical Manager responsible for Palliative and Transitional Care at St. Joseph’s Hospital.

According to Middleton, “A common misconception is that clients only come here at end of life. We have many palliative care clients who work with our team for a bit of a physical or cognitive ‘tune-up’ so they can return home comfortably.”

For those at end of life, St. Joseph’s Hospital has 10 private hospice beds where clients receive in-depth care including pain and symptom management. Middleton notes that having loved ones near-by is important. “Each room has a daybed for a family member, as well as a small fridge,” he sa id. “It’s comfort at a time when loved ones want to be close.”

Sarah Brown is a physiotherapist who works with clients receiving palliative care.

“A lot of people are surprised to hear that rehabilitation is part of palliative care,” said Brown. “We talk to clients about their goals, and develop a program to help reach those goals. We help with symptoms and with maintaining mobility and function. We’re very much looking at client- and family-centred quality of life and how we can help clients have the best quality of life even when they have significant medical conditions.”

Care and support also extends to the families and loved ones of clients.

Mandy Byerly-Vita, a social worker with St. Joseph’s Hospital, explains, “For clients living with a life-limiting illness, my role is to provide clinical support to them and their families. We can talk about what to expect with the illness, the dying process, and end-of-life issues. We talk about grief.”

Byerly-Vita said that Social Workers also help navigate some of the realities that come with end-of-life, including powers of attorney, and applying for benefits. “We can talk about advanced care planning, how to tell their families and friends, and clarify what it is what they want when they are unable to speak for themselves. Every family is different in what they need,” she said.

For clients, being able to receive care as close to home as possible is important, and SJCG is helping to make that a reality.

“We have care providers who are spread out across the region and across settings of care,” explains Jill Marcella, manager of SJCG’s North West Regional Palliative Care Program. “Our goal is to work with these partners in order to find the best way to meet the needs of clients and their families living with a life-limiting or terminal illness, regardless of where they live.”

Sherri Henderson is a Registered Nurse and telemedicine consultant with the Program. She provides support palliative care professionals from around the region and says, “I am a resource if they need information or advice on symptom or pain control, about best practices, or if they need to access a doctor on call, I can be a liaison to make that connection.”

Donna Leonzio, a registered nurse who has been with hospice for 10 of her 33 years at St. Joseph’s Care Group, is proud to be part of the diverse group of health care professionals providing hospice and palliative care. When asked why she has chosen this career, Leonzio said quite simply, “It’s rewarding being able to help families and clients transition through a really sad time.”

The second week of May is Hospice Palliative Care Week. On behalf of St. Joseph’s Care Group, thank you for the compassionate work that you do.

Spotlight on Care is a monthly column from St. Joseph’s Care Group exploring various topics in health care. It appears on the Healthstyle page of The Chronicle-Journal on the third Tuesday of each month. Visit to find out more about St. Joseph’s Care Group.

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