Holiday cheer and lights aplenty were present at the Nicola Valley Hospital last week, as volunteers with the Merritt & District Hospice Society decked the halls for nurses, doctors, and patients alike. Looking to encourage referrals and build relationships with hospital staff, hospice volunteers gathered to bring the spirit of Christmas into the hospital. 

The Merritt & District Hospice Society, a non-profit which supports those dying, grieving, or living with a life-altering illness, has been in operation since 1986. Currently the hospice society has twenty active volunteers. It is the firm belief of the society that no one should die alone, and their philosophy of care focuses on helping people “live until they die.” Hospice services are non-discriminatory, and always free-of-charge. Those looking to access the services of hospice can self-refer, but hospice volunteers told the Herald that hospital referrals are also common. 

“We’ve talked quite often about how we can get to know the nurses here and for them to get to know us,” said Jill Sanford, chair of the hospice society. 

“That’s really the whole idea of this event tonight. We want to get to know each other and feel more comfortable, they’ll make more referrals to us and we can come up here and all the volunteers will know where to go.”

This initiative looked to increase familiarity with the hospice program for hospital staff, and vice versa. The main focus of the hospice society is to connect with those requiring their services, and decorating the hospital was just one attempt to do so. Volunteers and their decorations were well received, with some hospital staff even joining in on the holiday fun. Decorations, snacks, and hot cider were all provided by the hospice, made available by funding through United Way. 

A number of patients in the Nicola Valley Hospital will likely stay in the facility over the holidays, recovering from sickness or awaiting placement in a long-term facility more suited to their needs. Sanford added the decorations will not only build relationships, but also bring the holidays to the hospital.

“There are a lot of clients in the hospital right now who are waiting for long term care placement, so this is their home,” added Sanford.

“We thought we’d like to bring a little bit of Christmas. The housekeeping does the main area, so we’re just doing some in the hallways and the patient areas, with permission, and following Interior Health’s rules for COVID.” 

The Merritt & District Hospice Society is currently searching for new digs following the news of their building being purchased by another organization. Its current location on Granite Avenue is home to a resource library, support groups, and the organization’s office space. Hospice hopes to secure a new location in the near future.

In addition to the search for their new home, the hospice society is currently working to develop a number of education programs and resources. Merrittonians can expect advanced care planning workshops, volunteer training opportunities, and a grief support group. Details on these new initiatives are still being worked out, but Sanford is hopeful they will make an impact and shed light on an important issue. 

“I’ve been involved with hospice since about 1975, and I find I do it because I really enjoy it,” added Sanford.

“There are hard times because death is never easy to talk about, but I believe the more we make it part of our life and talk about it, the better we’re able to actually work through it in the end.” 

Those interested in getting involved with the society or receiving support from it, should contact 250-280-1701, or go online at Resources are available in person at 12-2025 Granite Avenue, Thursday from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.