HELPing patients recognize Remembrance Day

HELPing patients recognize Remembrance Day

For ten years, Brian Johnston has been making sure patients at Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre (JHCC) are able to recognize Remembrance Day.

When he began volunteering with the Hospital Elder Life Program (HELP) a decade ago, he worried that some of the patients he supported wouldn’t be able to acknowledge the date without some help. Most patients in the program have dementia or delirium and they can get confused and forgetful. Johnston decided on a simple way to make sure they were able to acknowledge an event that was likely very important to them.

“I think it’s meaningful”

Leading up to Remembrance Day in 2007, he contacted the local legion asking for a donation of a few dozen poppies—one for each HELP patient at JHCC. That year, they gathered in the sun room on the unit and shared memories about the war and their loved ones.

In the ten years since, the HELP program has grown and evolved, as has Johnston’s poppy distribution. The program now supports so many patients that he hasn’t been able to carry on the ceremony. But he and his volunteer partner, Pat Gillifan, personally pin a poppy on each of the program’s 230 patients.

“I enjoy it and I think it’s meaningful,” Johnston says. “I think they appreciate being part of Remembrance Day by wearing the poppy.”

November 11th will mark the tenth year that Johnston has been sharing Remembrance Day with the HELP program. This year, poppy distribution is expanding to the HELP program at Hamilton General Hospital as well.

“It’s really inspiring to see how this small gesture affects our patients,” says Lorraine McGrattan, manager of Volunteer Resources at Hamilton Health Sciences. “These little extras are things our staff don’t always have time for. We’re so grateful to have giving volunteers who can support our patients in this way.”