Anonymous Six Nations family donates funds to build local hospice

An anonymous donor has agreed to build a five-bed hospice on Six Nations with hopes to turn the keys over to the community by January 2022.

That gives the planning committee and Six Nations of the Grand River Elected Council and staff about nine months to find five acres of land for the ambitious project, as well as securing ongoing operating costs for the first hospice of its kind on a First Nation in Canada.

A trio of Six Nations nurses has been working with the family and local health representatives to plan the much-needed hospice on Six Nations, saying the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the need to provide Six Nations people a culturally-appropriate place to obtain palliative care in their final days close to home.

Since January 16, a total of 16 home and community care clients have passed away, council heard at a general meeting last Tuesday.

“Palliative care is more important than ever in a pandemic,” said Caroline Taylor-Hill. “It has highlighted the need to expedite a hospice and additional resources.”

It’s difficult when a person is reaching the end of life and communication becomes difficult because the caregiver is not from the Six Nations community, she said. A local survey also highlighted a community-wide desire to have a Six Nations-based hospice.

“Residential hospices allow people to spend their last days where they choose in a caring homelike setting surrounded by family, friends and compassionate care,” she said.

It would be the first Indigenous hospice in Canada.

The hospice committee will include traditional and western partners to provide and plan care models for clients.

The unique hospice will incorporate traditional Haudenosaunee culture into its care plan and will include a garden full of traditional herbs and medicines on site.

The anonymous donor wants to honour a family member’s life by building the hospice, said Home and Community Care Nurse Verna Fruch. The family is prepared to provide all building materials, as well.

She said the family wishes to remain anonymous at this time but, “They’ll build it wherever we want it and however we want it.”

The committee is planning for a 10,000 sq. foot space for the hospice. It will include a pharmacy, secure storage of medications, record storage, a lounge area, a bariatric room, a family common area, a meeting room, counseling office, laundry and communications room. It will also include 2,000 sq. feet of outdoor living space.

The hospice will also provide grief and bereavement support and the budget will be an estimated $90,000 per year per bed.

The hospice committee is looking to elected council to find land for the hospice, ideally in a wooded area or close to the banks of the Grand River.

“This is something that’s very near and dear to me,” said Coun. Wendy Johnson. “I’ve gone through this many times with immediate family. It’s something I believe we severely need in this community. I support it 100 per cent.”

The hospice committee agreed to meet with Elected Council’s Human Services Committee as planning gets underway to find land suitable for the new build.

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