Shovels break ground for Edmonton's first purpose-built hospice

Unlike Calgary, Red Deer and Okotoks, Edmonton doesn’t have any purpose-built residential hospices for people nearing the end of their lives. That’s set to change by the end of next year.

Residential centre aims to raise standard for end-of-life care in capital region

The ground-breaking ceremony for the Roozen Family Hospice Centre in the Crestwood neighbourhood happened Monday morning. (Manuel Carrillos/CBC)

Unlike Calgary, Red Deer and Okotoks, Edmonton doesn't have any purpose-built residential hospices for people nearing the end of their lives. That's set to change by the end of next year.

Ground was broken Monday morning for the Roozen Family Hospice Centre, a project of the Pilgrims Hospice Society.

Unlike other hospice centres in Edmonton, the building — at 148th Street and 98th Avenue in Crestwood — will be detached from any other facilities, offering all end-of-life care and support services under one roof.

Monica Robson, executive director of the Pilgrims Hospice Society, said the new centre will fill an unoccupied niche for hospices in Edmonton.

"Everything else is within a long-term care or continuing-care facility, so ... it's a more institutional feel," Robson said. "This really is designed to make people feel like they are living in a home."

The facility will feature 12 private palliative suites, along with family spaces and a courtyard.

Doors are expected to open at the residential hospice by the end of 2020. (Pilgrim’s Hospice Society)

Several services will be offered there, from grief counselling to spiritual care spaces. Those services are expected to serve about 3,000 people each year, Robson said.

"You come in our doors and we can help you, from the day you find out that you're diagnosed with a terminal illness all the way through the grieving process for loved ones that are left behind," she said.

"If you really care for people well at end of life and you manage their pain, you manage their symptoms, you help them with that existential suffering, you provide that spiritual care, it really helps to ease the burden of what people are going through."

The new building will replace a hospice that operated out of an old convent on the same site. For 25 years, it offered services to Edmontonians diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses.

"We renovated and we did some refurbishing, but we weren't able to offer the full scope of programming and we were not able to add the residential hospice care beds, which is what we are adding as we build the Roozen Family Hospice Centre," Robson said.

Monica Robson is the executive director of the Pilgrims Hospice Society, a not-for-profit organization that provides hospice support to people in the capital region. (Manuel Carrillos/CBC)

The hospice society is working with Alberta Health Services to make the new facility part of a referral system. Self-referral and physician-referral may also be options for potential residents, she said.

About $10 million of the $15-million fundraising goal for the project has been raised so far.

Construction for the hospice begins Tuesday, with the goal of having all funds raised once the doors open at the end of 2020.


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