Connecting Hospice Palliative Care Communities Conference
“This was an excellent conference with exceptional presentations which were very timely and informative for our Society.” These are the words of one of the participants who recently attended our Imagine 2016 Conference in Nisku.
Over 50 AHPCA members from more than 20 hospice palliative care organizations came together mid-November to share experiences, connect with each other, and learn about palliative care issues.
We were delighted that Minister of Health and Deputy Premier, Hon Sarah Hoffman, was able to attend. She opened the Conference and spoke touchingly about her personal experiences of palliative care, including when her father passed away several years ago.
“I’m honoured to be in a room with so many people who are working to make sure palliative care practices in Alberta are excellent,” Ms Hoffman said. She spoke about how those staff and volunteers who work in palliative care make a “difficult time beautiful” and how Alberta needs “more hospice and palliative care.”
As well as taking advantage of this opportunity to meet face-to-face with people from other hospices, societies, and palliative care organizations, members heard from a variety of different speakers.
This included informative and engaging talks from Sarah Walker (Executive Director) and Fiona McColl (Senior Director Operations) from Hospice Calgary, who spoke about how to get the right people on your Board, and the right staff and volunteers in place to ensure success for your palliative care organization to be a success.
In the afternoon, we heard three very moving personal stories from family members who have had loved ones pass away. Everyone’s experiences and needs are unique to them, and these stories underlined the peace, comfort and dignity good quality palliative care can bring – not only to the individual, but to their family and loved ones as well. One story in particular also highlighted how very different things can be without it. “I appreciate the personal stories,” reflected a member, “they open the heart.”
This was followed by an in-depth discussion about a current hot topic: medical assistance in dying (MAID). Although a difficult and controversial topic to broach, it is a very necessary one to talk about given the federal ruling earlier this year that makes MAID an option in Canada for certain people in certain circumstances. As one participant put it: “Thank you for addressing the elephant in the room.” Several members were grateful for the opportunity to discuss this difficult subject, saying: “Keep opening and stretching our minds. Don’t back down from the tough questions and topics.”
Dr Jim Slivius from Alberta Health Services, introduced the topic by explaining what processes are now in place in Alberta. There was then a thought-provoking interactive panel discussion where participants put several important questions to our 5 guests. They were:
- Jim Silvius – Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine, Division of Geriatric Medicine, University of Calgary, and the Lead for Medical Assistance in Dying Preparedness, Alberta Health Services
- Pam Mangold – Registered Nurse and Policy and Practice Consultant for the College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta
- Katherine Duthie – Clinical Ethicist for the Royal Alexandra Hospital and the North Zone in AHS. She has been an active participant on the Medical Assistance in Dying Secretariat
- Zinia Pritchard – certified spiritual care practitioner through the Canadian Association for Spiritual Care with a doctoral focus on spirituality within palliative care
- Connie Strautmann – Pharmacist and Board member for the Olds and District Hospice Society
One of the most important points to come out of the discussion was that we should be open to and respect everyone’s opinions, beliefs and wishes about MAID, even if it is not the same as our own. This counts for patients as well as medical professionals who may, or may not, want to be involved.
It was a powerful day of learning and sharing, and an experience that will no doubt remain in the minds of our members for months ahead. Imagine is now in its third year and, as Ms Hoffman said, “This conference is here to stay.”
We would like to extend our gratitude to Alberta Innovates Health Solutions without whose generosity it would not have been possible to hold this event.
We look forward to welcoming many of you back next year!
Read more about the Conference in the Edmonton Journal.