Photo © Courtesy of Hospice Toronto
As our population ages and more of us near the end of life, we’ll seek out quality care to support us through the very end. Grief and death are human experiences, but we are rarely prepared to experience them. In times of loss, when life feels overwhelming, access to end-of-life support can make all the difference in how we respond, manage, and even draw strength from the experience.
Dena Maule, Chief Executive Officer of Hospice Toronto has been on both sides. Through her work with the organization, she’s seen how impactful end-of-life support is, but when her husband, Peter, became a client, she saw that impact from a different perspective.
Hospice Toronto offers holistic care and compassionate support for loved ones throughout their last breaths, a humane response to a human experience.
Global Heroes: What is the main focus of your organization?
Dena Maule: We are a volunteer-driven organization that provides support for people living with life-limiting illnesses and their family caregivers when and where they need it.
Our formal care hours are supplemented with the support of skilled hospice volunteers in the home, who offer respite to caregivers and provide a range of in-home services, from practical care support (including assisted lifts, incontinence care, and mouth care), to emotional support, meal preparation, grocery shopping, and housekeeping. We are committed to providing clients with the full range of support services that they need.
Family and caregivers aren’t forgotten either—we offer grief and bereavement support and recently launched a Death Doula program and support for Young Carers, building resiliency in caregivers of all ages.
GH: How does Hospice Toronto fit into the health care system?
DM: Hospice Toronto participates in three Ontario Health Teams and is an active partner in the ICCP (Integrated Client Care program) Partners, a collaborative model for nursing, PSWs, palliative care physicians, and hospice volunteers.
We also help to build resiliency for family caregivers in an increasingly diverse city. End-of-life care requires the support of a care team. A care team often includes spouses or partners, families, friends, neighbours, colleagues, doctors, nurses, personal support workers, and volunteers.
The Young Carers Program focuses on children in a caregiving role for a parent, grandparent, sibling or relative with a chronic or life-threatening illness, disability, addiction, mental illness, or language barrier. The program connects youth with others who have had similar experiences and provides therapeutic and recreational programming to help youth with caregiving responsibilities cope.
The Creating Caring Communities program takes a community development approach to learning from people from other cultures how best to honour their choices in care and to codesign programs to reflect their choices.
Last year, Hospice Toronto supported 1,500 people through end-of-life hospice care, supported children through the Young Careers Program and connected neighbours across Toronto’s diverse communities through the Creating Caring Communities Program.
GH: What do you hope to achieve as an organization?
DM: We want to enable clients and their family caregivers in their choice to receive care at home and to die at home, if they wish. We also hope to be a leader in innovations and partnerships that support quality care for our clients and optimize resources for the healthcare system we are part of. In order to do this, we need the support of donors. Our volunteers are thoroughly screened, and each receive almost 40 hours of training to enable them to provide both practical and emotional support in the homes of our clients.
Each year we raise approximately $700k to ensure our full scope of services is available to people living with a life-limiting illness and family caregivers. To cover the gap between government funding and the cost to deliver our services, we rely on fundraising and donations.
We do our work, at no cost to our clients and their families, knowing that life is precious, and none of us can know when the moment may come when our life will be changed forever through the news that someone close to us is dying or through experiencing our own loss.
Throughout the end of life, everyone should be free to receive care at home until their last breaths.
To learn how you can make a difference through a donation or by getting involved, visit hospicetoronto.ca/ways-to-give
Hospice Toronto enables access to appropriate care and support for those with a serious illness and their caregivers when and where they need it, whoever they are. We achieve this through our culture of caring and discovery, which is fuelled by passionate, dedicated volunteers, imaginative partnerships, and a focus on research and innovation.