Holy Family Hospital resident Emelia Laurea. Emelia is one of three residents at Holy Family who volunteer their time to provide pastoral care to fellow residents.

Volunteer residents provide spiritual support for their neighbours

December 15th, 2017

Three caring volunteers provide comfort to their peers at Holy Family Hospital

Emelia Laurea is one of three Holy Family Hospital residents who volunteer their time to provide pastoral care to their fellow residents. While Emelia will often sit with people who are ill, sometimes she and her fellow volunteers may simply spend time with someone who may be alone, or who may have minimal family support.

Along with supporting her fellow residents, Emelia, 78, has become good friends with her two fellow volunteers. The three will often share meals together.

“We provide company for people, we visit people who are sick,” says Emelia, “we pray with them. I’m a person who really believes in the power of prayer.”

Coordination of the pastoral care volunteers is managed by Cecilia Moore, Holy Family Hospital’s Spiritual Health Practitioner.

“Cecilia’s our boss!” says Emelia, with a laugh. “But she is on vacation right now so we won’t do any visiting until next week.”

Grateful to be able to give back

Emelia appreciates being able to help her fellow residents in this special way and says the experience is very gratifying.

“The people I sit with, they like it very much. You can see it in their eyes that they feel good. And it is especially nice when someone is sick because when you’re sick it is easy to feel depressed. So it’s always nice when I hear from Cecilia that someone really enjoyed one of my visits. That means a lot to me.”

Emelia has been a resident at Holy Family since 2016 and feels very lucky to be a resident here—and to be in good health, too, given a serious fall she had experienced the previous year.

As will often be the case with long term care residents, that fall played a role in Emelia’s relocation to residential care. Emelia had spent several months in hospital due to the fall, which had resulted in a blood clot in her brain.

“I received very good care,” says Emelia, “and when I was better and ready to leave the hospital, my family worked with a social worker to help find a place for me to live and I am very happy it is Holy Family. Everyone is very friendly here. One of my daughters, Jessica, is a nurse, and Jessica said to me, ‘Mum, I think this place will be very good for you.’ And she was right.”

Emelia has four daughters, three of whom live in BC (two in the immediate area) and visit her regularly. Emelia mentions that one of her granddaughters (Jessica’s 13 year-old daughter, Hailey) plays the violin and will often bring the instrument with her when she visits to play for the residents.

In fact, Hailey has played a number of concerts at Holy Family, most recently during a Remembrance Day service; and she will also perform at the Christmas Day mass.

“That is a highlight,” says Emelia, growing animated at the thought of her granddaughter’s performances at Holy Family. “For me and for everyone!”

Moving toward social models in elder care

Encouraging socialization and creating unique and helping ways for residents to interact with each other is in keeping with the movement toward a more social model of care—and away from the more traditional institutional model—currently underway at Providence Health Care, which cares for 721 residents across six residential care sites.

In addition to being home to Emelia and 141 other extended care residents, Holy Family also houses PHC’s main rehabilitation unit, which includes a 65-bed inpatient rehab unit that offers intensive therapy for older adults to overcome obstacles caused by strokes, arthritis, orthopedic trauma or major surgeries.

Holy Family celebrates its 70th anniversary this month, but is by no means showing its age; instead, it continues to be a leading light in elder care innovation.

To support excellence in care and groundbreaking social programs like those at Holy Family Hospital, make a gift to St. Paul’s Foundation now.