Haven Toronto, the Sovereign Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Knights Hospitaller and Inner City Health Associates (ICHA) have joined forces on THE GOOD WISHES project, a program designed to provide people experiencing homelessness with 3 simple wishes to help ease their end-of-life.
Individuals experiencing homelessness are known to have higher mortality rates than the general population and to die at an earlier age. Their palliative care needs are also high. There may be an absence of close family members or social networks to provide support in a way that respects their personal journey. The goal of THE GOOD WISHES Project is to personalize the process of dying and to bring comfort and dignity to the last days of those who have lived a difficult life.
Some examples of the wishes could be a special meal with friends, facilitating a visit by an out of town family member, or a request for a favourite food. The project concept is inspired by the 3 Wishes project developed in Hamilton, which provides 3 wishes for the patient and family of those dying in the intensive care unit.
“It’s important that the lives of everyone at end of life be validated,” said Haven Toronto Executive Director Lauro Monteiro. “They have contributed to society, raised families, worked and led productive lives. Some have experienced hardship along the way. As a society, we need to honour them,” Monteiro added.
The pilot project was made possible through a founding donation from the Sovereign Order of St John of Jerusalem. Donations can be made to supporting ongoing efforts. Inner City Health Associates, a group of physicians working in homeless shelters and drop-ins, provide the referrals of patients enrolled in their PEACH (Palliative Education And Care for the Homeless) service. Haven Toronto administers the program and seeks to fulfill the wishes of the participants.
THE GOOD WISHES Project fulfills ongoing requests of those in palliative care. These are examples of the range of support from the past year.
PROVIDES RELIEF. (August 2016)
Bob* lived independently with palliative services. While doing so, it quickly became apparent that his accommodations were dangerously hot. A referral came in to THE GOOD WISHES project. It was a request to provide Bob with a portable air conditioner. The unit was purchased and installed by THE GOOD WISHES project relieving Bob of the risk of health issues related to heat and humidity.
Heat issues account for on average 120 deaths a year in Toronto, more than any other weather related threat. Extreme heat affects those who may succumb to underlying heath conditions, ie respiratory and cardiovascular, that are heat sensitive.
DELIVERS THE JOY OF MUSIC. (August 2016)
Jim* was a palliative patient who lived independently. He was also a lover of music and enjoyed playing the guitar. But access to both was limited. A request was secretly placed on his behalf. Soon after, Jim was outfitted with a new guitar from THE GOOD WISHES project. The offer was both a surprise and appreciated by Jim.
GIVES PIECE OF MIND. (February 2017)
When you leave this world, you leave behind your name and reputation. What people think and remember of you is important to so many, including Jerry*. Moving into palliative care left him behind on his rent. Not wanting to pass owing anyone money, a request was made to cover the outstanding funds. THE GOOD WISHES project paid off Jerry’s debt of $500. Jerry was left with a clean balance sheet and clear conscience, piece of mind and dignity in death.
THE OPPORTUNITY TO SAY THANK YOU. (March 2017)
It is not uncommon for palliative care patients to want to be surrounded by family and friends. For Sarah* this included hospital staff and members of the PEACH program – people that she had come to know, respect and appreciate. New friends made late in life. Upon request, THE GOOD WISHES project catered a party for Sarah and the group. It was a moment Sarah calls one of the best in her long, fulfilling life.