December 2018 / Scarborough, Ontario, Canada
By Emily Dawson
Michael Pasquale has always held warm memories of Providence Healthcare. His grandmother and aunts had received exceptional care there and those experiences stayed with him over the years. When the time came to seek palliative care for his mother, Rosie, they both knew that Providence was the only place she wanted to be.
Providence has a 161-year legacy of providing care to our city’s most frail. When the Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto opened the House of Providence downtown in 1857, it was to receive those who had nowhere else to go: widows, orphans, the homeless, and others in need.
The Sisters moved Providence to its current location at Warden and St. Clair Avenues in 1962. While many of our east-end neighbours are familiar with our campus, the programs and services we offer have evolved over the years to meet the changing needs of the community, our city, and the health-care system across our province.
In addition to our long-term care home and Adult Day Program for people living with moderate to severe dementia, our hospital offers rehabilitation and palliative care.
Pasquale grew up in East York in the 1960s and fondly remembers how generous the Sisters were to the Scarborough com
unity. He recalls playing in the Sisters’ gym with schoolmates when there were no other gyms available to them.
“All the Sisters asked was that we behaved! Through them, we started learning about Providence.”
Little did Pasquale know the important role Providence would play in his life decades later.Our Palliative Care program started in 1982 as a 17-bed unit. Subsequently, we launched an outreach program to assist people to stay in their homes as long as possible, which was a transformational initiative at the time.
Today, we have a 35-bed unit and our staff are committed to maintaining comfort, managing pain, and fostering dignity for the dying. They work as a holistic team to support patients and families, answering questions, allaying fears, and explaining services.
Pasquale was Rosie’s primary caregiver as she started aging and requiring intensive care. Rosie was a widow by this time, still living in the same East York home Pasquale grew up in – and he lived just a short walk away.
“My mother was ahead of her time. She was a feisty, strong-willed woman who worked her way up to become a director of Finance and Administration for Revenue Canada’s Toronto headquarters. She provided so much for our family. We are grateful to this day,” said Pasquale.
“We had lots of time together – every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday was ‘Mom day’ – and I cherished that. I wanted to be able to care for her as she aged. But it was a difficult role for a son to take on because it was very personal, like bathing and dressing her.
“She had so many falls and I was nervous all the time. Ultimately, she had a terrible fall that changed everything. Her mind was sharp but her body was deteriorating quickly.”
In a hospital after this last fall, both Pasquale and Rosie – and her doctor – recognized that palliative care was the best option.
“I said to her, ‘Mom, we have to find better care – we can’t send you back home on your own.’”
Pasquale clearly remembers his Mom’s conversation with her doctor.
“She told him, ‘There’s one place and one place only, and you better get me in there! If I can go to Providence, I’ll be happy.’ She felt a connection there.”
Our Caregiver Floor, opened in 2016, supports extended visiting during this difficult time, including two guest suites for overnight stays. These suites are for family members traveling long distances to visit, or for those who wish to remain close by and be available at a moment’s notice.
Our environment is designed to help people enjoy their remaining time together. In recent years, we have facilitated weddings, baptisms, birthdays and anniversaries. We even arranged a granddaughter’s Bollywood dance recital for her grandfather and other patients.
The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) released a report in September that shows most Canadians (75 per cent) want to die at home. Providence can help people with this.
We offer respite care through short-stay admissions of up to two weeks to give a caregiver time for rest and renewal. For families caring for a loved one at home, respite services are a lifeline to maintaining their own well-being.
While we care for the person in respite, family members can use the time for self-care, a vacation, or to manage personal and professional obligations.
Providence also offers a “return home” option for patients who would like to die at home after having their symptoms managed here. We can quickly and seamlessly bring the patient back to Providence if things don’t go as planned at home.
Every situation is different and we work individually with patients to help them fulfill their personal choice.
For Pasquale, his mother didn’t get the chance to return home.
“My mother’s birthday is January 1. In December, we started to plan a birthday celebration. We asked her to hang on and she did. She died a few days later, so we’re grateful we celebrated her big day,” said Pasquale.
“We both felt at peace that Providence was her last stop. Her doctor, nurses, and everyone on the unit were so good, and I always felt in the loop – they took good care of me too. She was safe and peaceful. That’s all we could have wanted.”
Emily Dawson is the senior communications advisor at Providence Healthcare. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org