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Installing end-of-life care at home

By Charlotte Futcher and Ashley Mollison

Agencies in Greater Victoria have come together to remedy the unavailability and inaccessibility of medical supplies and equipment for people who are experiencing or are at risk of homelessness. This partnership aims to support people’s abilities to remain in their homes and communities by providing them with free medical equipment. The equipment and supplies offered include important tools such as power chairs and lifts, grab bars, and non-slip mats. This equipment is often not covered by government supports and when it is, there are many potential obstacles related to transportation and installation in settings like shelters or private units.

Medical equipment provided through this project will be distributed through Victoria-based Palliative Outreach Resource Team (PORT). PORT is a mobile team that brings care to people wherever they are. Many of their patients face barriers to accessing needed and proper care, commonly due to systemic discrimination and inequities.

The team of agencies involved in this partnership is multidisciplinary, from Victoria Cool Aid Society to private donors. UVic’s Palliative Approaches to Aging & Community Health applied to Pacific Blue Cross for funding when PORT identified the need for timely access to medical supplies and equipment. This initial funding was then matched by a local business, motivated to contribute due to special, personal experiences.

Doug Riddell has owned Vancouver Island Medical Supply since 1994. He sells, installs, and maintains medical equipment. In his personal life, Riddell has first-hand experience of seeing the support required to help someone die at home, as that is where he and his Mom supported his Dad at the end of his life. In his professional life, Riddell has seen countless examples over the years of how mobile-dependent people can sustain a sense of independence through the use of medical equipment. His value to “give back” has been largely influenced by these experiences, as well as the story of his neighbour.

Above his store is an apartment which was once inhabited by an older adult facing stage-four lung cancer. Over time, Riddell got to know this individual and would help him with daily tasks, such as grocery shopping, that were made challenging due to the health challenges he was enduring.

This older adult happened to be one of PORT’s patients. Riddell had the opportunity to witness PORT at work, visiting this individual and bringing him care and support at home.

When he heard about this project and its intention to mitigate challenges around access to medical equipment, Riddell didn’t hesitate to get involved, inspired to give back to the community.

Riddell knows how challenging loss can be and the many different experiences that can cause grief. Over the past two years, he has lost two close relatives, endured a fire burning down the barn that housed thousands of dollars’ worth of medical equipment, and was in a caregiving position for his Dad. He believes in “[Listening] like your heart has ears,” so, when he heard there was an opportunity to help resolve issues pertaining medical equipment accessibility, he was ready and eager to get involved.

Without resources like accessible medical equipment and supplies, individuals made vulnerable by structural and health factors are often displaced from their homes and moved into hospitals, precarious housing, or onto the streets. This project will help people who are facing health obstacles, such as serious illness or general age-related health conditions stay where they are, upholding their self-determination, agency, comfort, and dignity.

With the help of Riddell, University of Victoria, Island Health’s Palliative & End of Life Program, Victoria Cool Aid Society, and the Pacific Blue Cross, PORT will be able to provide curated and necessary care to their patients more easily due to this equipment.

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