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Meet the Ottawa Deaf Palliative Care Team

05 November 2012

One afternoon in a palliative care unit at Elisabeth Bruyere Continuing Care in Ottawa, a palliative care doctor walked into a patient’s room, gently placed the patient’s right hand on the doctor’s long braids to feel them and then moved the patient’s hand to touch the doctor’s stethoscope.

The patient smiled and recognized the doctor. The patient had Usher’s Syndrome – a genetic condition that caused retinitis pigmentosa and deafness. The patient at that time was surrounded by some members of the Ottawa Deaf Palliative Care Team providing support to the patient and her spouse, using American Sign Language.

The Ottawa Deaf Palliative Care Team was officially formed in the winter of 2009 after its eight members received a 13 week training program at The Hospice at May Court with access to American Sign Language interpreting services. The Deaf Palliative Care Team has provided support to Deaf individuals receiving care from various health care facilities or Hospice Palliative Care professionals. (When spelled with an uppercase D, Deaf, refers to individuals who are part of a cultural minority, the Deaf.) Also, the team has provided support to persons referred from other agencies or organizations.

The team has provided assistance, as well, to individuals, friends and families in and of the Deaf Community who ask for support for end of life issues, including long term care for themselves or their families and friends.

The team also has liaison with a long time, deaf volunteer at Roger’s House. Members of the team volunteer regularly at The Hospice at May Court and Friends of Hospice of Ottawa.

Resource to the Community

Whenever a member of the Deaf Community needs palliative care, the team of volunteers will be ready to assist the staff of various facilities to provide culturally sensitive care. The team can also assist Deaf/Blind individuals as well as hard of hearing, deafened and oral deaf, who rely on speaking and speechreading.

Through the ongoing involvement of the Deaf Palliative Care Team in various existing programs in Ottawa-Carleton Region, staff and other volunteers can become familiar with the team and comfortable working with Deaf colleagues. Should a Deaf person subsequently need services, a core group of knowledgeable people will be made available.

The inclusion of the Deaf Palliative Care Team paves the way for breaking down communication, cultural and institutional barriers that limit Deaf people’s access to hospice palliative care and other end of life issues.

The cost of interpreting services for workshops and meetings as well as the Volunteer Orientation Course at The Hospice at May Court has been covered by Sign Language Interpreting Associates Ottawa INC. (SLIAO) who have generously provided interpreting, at no cost, for more than 51 events since 2008. The Deaf Palliative Care Team is hopeful that funds can be secured to provide interpreting (for the Deaf) and intervening (for the Deaf/Blind) services on an ongoing basis.

For more information about the Ottawa Deaf Palliative Care Team’s work, you may contact:

Christine Wilson
613-864-7040 Cell (Voice)
wilsonchristine@rogers.com

M. Elaine Campbell
613-729-1612 TTY via Bell Relay Service for the Deaf at 1-800-855-0511
mecbell@rogers.com
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