Agape House 25th anniversary

Statement from BHB CEO Venetta Symonds

Saturday 27 February 2016 is a milestone for Bermuda and Bermuda Hospitals Board. It’s the 25th anniversary of Agape House – the first and only palliative care hospice facility on the island. Since opening in 1991, Agape House staff have cared for more than 2,000 patients.
Although there was wide public debate on the need for a hospice before we opened in 1991, the facility saw 60 admissions that year. The following year admissions more than doubled, indicating that there was a clear need in our community for hospice care. That need has not diminished. Since 2011 the Agape House team has cared for more than one hundred patients each year. In 2014, admissions reached a record high of 135.

Agape House staff specialise in caring for people at the end of their lives and are extremely compassionate. They focus on life and living, providing the necessary support to family and friends and assisting patients in living life to the fullest for the duration of their stay.

We repeatedly hear from families that they were surprised at the lack of gloom at the facility. That’s something we want to stress in the community. We want to encourage people to seek our help if caring for a loved one near the end of their life is proving difficult. Families can visit with their loved one as often and for as long as they need to at Agape House. Families tell us all the time that they feel as if they have come “home” when they come to visit their loved one.

Many members of the public may not realise that Agape House also provides pain and symptom management services. These patients might not be in the terminal stages and may be receiving treatment to fight a serious illness.

As we celebrate the anniversary of Agape House, we must acknowledge Friends of Hospice, the charity that has supported this service since 1994. Friends of Hospice has provided over $5 million dollars in financial aid. This includes funding for inpatient services and full food service, as well as ancillary programmes which support patients after they’ve been discharged.

Friends of Hospice is organising several events over the next few months to highlight Agape House and the services we offer there. I’ll now hand over to Friends of Hospice Executive Director Cathy Belvedere, who will elaborate.

Statement by Friends of Hospice Executive Director Cathy Belvedere

Our events kick off on the actual anniversary day – Saturday 27 February – with the fundraiser Hearts, Hats and High Tea at Windows on the Sound at the Fairmont Southampton. The event is from 2pm to 5pm. Tickets are $75. To purchase tickets call 232-0859 or email friendsofhospice@bhb.bm.

The public is invited to celebrate the anniversary by producing poetry or artwork on the theme Being Alive. Deadline for entries is Monday 23 May 2016. Entries will be judged and the winning pieces will be announced in June, when renovations of Agape House cottage are complete. The winning pieces will be displayed in the renovated building.

Details of this contest are available on the KEMH Facebook page and on the BHB website at www.bermudahospitals.bm. Details are also available at Masterworks, Bermuda Society of Arts, Dockyard Arts Centre and Friends of Hospice.

Friends of Hospice also want to encourage the community at large to talk more openly about death and dying. In Bermuda we find that many people don’t want to talk about death. This is experienced in many countries, so we are not alone. People can be uncomfortable discussing anything to do with death and dying, but it is important as then individuals can say whether they desire to be or not to be on life support, as well as the more detailed items like funeral arrangements.
In an effort to bring more openness to this topic, we will host an island-wide book club featuring the book Being Mortal by author Atul Gawande.

This book gives a fascinating insight into the importance of community communication around the difficult topic of dying. Readers are quickly drawn into the dilemmas the author faced. At the end of the story, they resolve to start having these difficult conversations with their own families.

Details of the book club will be announced in the coming weeks and you can check for updates on the Friends of Hospice Facebook page.

Thank you all for coming and we look forward to your support.

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