By Tracey Duguay
What more important service can an organization provide than to ease the suffering, and celebrate the life, of someone who is terminally ill?
Since 1986, the Sudbury Regional Palliative Care Association (SRPCA), has been providing free physical, emotional and spiritual support to individuals facing the end of their life. On average, they assist about 300 individuals and their families every year.
According to SRPCA director Maryann Lepage, before a client contacts them or is referred to their organization, a few basic guidelines are followed.
?They (client) must have a diagnosis of being terminally ill and a prognosis of less than one year (to live),? Lepage said.
The palliative care services aren?t offered in isolation, but are usually part of a larger inter-disciplinary team. The ?team? consists of clients and their families, physicians, other health care professionals, and the palliative care staff and volunteers.
Lepage, who took over the role of director at the SRPCA from Peggy Fera on April 15, finds her work very fulfilling as she believes palliative care is a very important component of a person?s life.
?We tend to celebrate birth but not life in general,? Lepage said. ?They (clients) have the right to live until they die and should be able to live life to its fullest.?
Aside from the clients and their families, Lepage said there are a couple of other reasons she enjoys working at the SRPCA.
The first reason is the volunteers who she refers to as the ?quiet angels.?
?They are very special individuals to give of themselves and to be with clients, their family and loved ones when facing this challenging time in their life,? Lepage explained.
Being good listeners, compassionate, non-judgmental, caring and supportive are just a few of the characteristics Lepage believes are important in a volunteer.
All volunteers go through a screening process and must attend an intense 30-hour training workshop before they can start working with clients. The workshop provides instruction on palliative care philosophy, communication, stress management and bereavement.
Lepage explains finding enough volunteers can be difficult since there is a ?misconception? about working with a palliative care individual.
?People think it?s a wonderful program but often say to themselves ?I can?t do it,?? Lepage said.
The other reason Lepage enjoys her work is the staff, who she calls a ?special bunch? because the work they perform can be very ?emotional and trying? at times.
The SRPCA staff work hard at not only serving the needs of their clients and families, but also at securing enough funds to provide their services.
As a charitable, non-profit organization, they rely on donations and fundraising programs to subsidize their operating and community education costs.
Last month, the War Pensioners of Canada (WPC) donated $1,000 to the SRPCA in honour of their outgoing president, Fred Vincent, who is a strong supporter of the association.
To celebrate its 15-year anniversary, the SRPCA just launched a major fundraising campaign. The first event of the ?Caring Moments/Brins D?Amour? campaign was held last Thursday (May 9) at the Sudbury Theatre Centre.
Lepage said the event was a "huge success" and they raised $11,000.
To find out more information about the SRPCA, call (705) 677-0077 or visit their website at www.palliativecare.ca.