Temple Israel, on April 2, held a public forum on advanced care planning and announced the launch of its own volunteer-based Palliative Care Outreach Program.
The forum, called Living and Dying with Dignity, featured medical, political and community leaders who specialize in palliative care.
Retired senator Sharon Carstairs, a leader in palliative care policy and the Caring Communities Initiative, said communities need to normalize dying.
“There’s a time to live and be born and there is a time to die,” she said quoting Ecclesiastes, “and these are the only two events that every single human being has in common.
“In this country, we do a pretty good job of welcoming those newborns – at least most of them, but we don’t do nearly as good a job at saying goodbye to those that are leaving us.”
Ottawa South MPP John Fraser, parliamentary assistant to Ontario Minister of Health and Long-Term care Eric Hoskins, said he began learning about palliative many years ago as a volunteer at an Ottawa hospital.
“One thing I learned that always stuck with me is that the smallest things are the most important at the end of life – and those small things are often the most important in life. Those small kindnesses are so important in palliative care.”
Ottawa palliative care physician Dr. Paul L. Hacker, a member of Community Palliative Medicine Associates (CPMA), spoke about patient care and the critical need for community volunteers such as those from the new Temple Israel program.
Hacker said volunteers are ready and trained for their roles while family members are often not ready when a loved-one’s health changes.
That’s one of the reasons Temple Israel decided to create its Palliative Care Outreach Program and train volunteers who can help members of the Jewish community and their families.
“In Jewish terms, it is really one word – chesed (kindness),” said Temple Israel’s Rabbi Rob Morais in describing the foundation for the outreach program.
“It’s a sense of our obligation to be kind and be compassionate to all those who need it and to recognize the kind of care people need at different points throughout their lives.”
Pamela Cogan, chair of Temple Israel’s Social Action Committee and organizer of the conference, said her career as a respiratory therapist at the Ottawa Hospital places her in contact with patients and families when she works in intensive care or emergency.
“In the hospital, we care for many people who have not prepared for their death or even denied that their death was coming. The impact of this is most often felt by family members who are starting to grieve and who are just slammed with last-minute decisions that have to be made,” she said.
Cogan said visiting the sick is an important part of Jewish life as an act of loving kindness.
Those interested in training as volunteers in the Palliative Care Outreach Program are asked to contact Temple Israel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 613-224-1802.