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HELPERS: Volunteer cooks up compassion at Newmarket hospice

Newmarket's Roberta Arbuckle has volunteered with the hospice since it opened in 2017, supporting residents and their families, cooking and baking meals, and assisting with tasks where needed most

Newmarket’s Roberta Arbuckle knows the difference a bit of compassion can make.

As an almost five-year volunteer with Margaret Bahen Hospice, she has helped ensure a safe and home-like environment for those who need it most at the 10-bed end of life and palliative care facility in Newmarket that provides round-the-clock nursing and medical care, social work services, therapy, and support for residents and their families, .Whether this means making someone smile or giving them a chance to “feel normal” again, Arbuckle is there to help.

“One resident’s wife described it to me as such a relief. She could finally become the wife again, and not be the caregiver. She could sit back and just cuddle with him, love him,” said Arbuckle. “She didn’t have to worry about his care, because she knew he was in good hands with the nurses and staff.”

Opened in November 2017, Margaret Bahen Hospice offers care for individuals at any stage of a life-limiting illness, ensuring physical, emotional, and spiritual care for residents and the management of any pain or symptoms they experience.

By partnering with Newmarket’s Doane House Hospice, Margaret Bahen Hospice also offers care for the caregiver services, ensuring friends, family, and loved ones of residents receive the same compassionate support and care.

As one of more than 150 committed volunteers working with the facility, Arbuckle spends approximately 10 hours a week baking and cooking, interacting with residents and their families, helping nurses and PSWs with small tasks, working reception, and assisting with small chores as needed.

She also advocates for the hospice, participating in information booths at local events and farmers markets, and co-facilitates a bereavement support group through Doane House Hospice.

“It’s not all sad,” said Arbuckle. “There are some sad moments, but we actually do have a lot of fun. If anything, there can be lot more laughs than there are tears.”

Though the province of Ontario covers the cost of nursing and personal care services, Margaret Bahen Hospice relies on approximately $700,000 in annual charitable donations to cover costs of food, entertainment, spiritual care, social work services, music and art therapy, administrative support, and more.

Volunteers like Arbuckle help keep costs low, ensuring a cost-effective and more stress-free experience for families dealing with one of life’s most difficult processes.

“As essential members of our team, volunteers enable the hospice to provide the best quality care with dignity, respect, and kindness to residents at end of life. Their gift of time and empathetic support make a positive, meaningful impact every day at Margaret Bahen Hospice,” said Ann Boden, coordinator of volunteer services at Margaret Bahen Hospice.

“Volunteers have many roles — welcoming visitors, tending our gardens, lending a helping hand, and sitting at bedside — all of which enrich the hospice experience for our residents, their families, and our staff. We are so grateful for our volunteers.”

For Arbuckle, volunteering with the hospice is a way to pay it forward for the times in her life when people have stepped up to help make her feel better — for example, sharing “cathartic” memories with family and friends after her parents passed away.

Volunteering with Margaret Bahen Hospice began the very day Arbuckle retired, when she first learned about the facility after stopping by a farmers market booth.

“I enjoy it. I like making people laugh,” said Arbuckle. “I try to be life’s cheerleader, build people up and make them feel better. I love what I do, and I find it extremely self-rewarding. I can have the worst day, and I go in there and do my shift and I come out with no worries, no troubles, and a smile on my face.”