Andy’s House, a residential palliative care home in Port Carling, was made possible through community camaraderie and generosity, and now, Hospice Muskoka is celebrating two years of service at the facility.
Hospice Muskoka created Andy’s House in honour of OPP Constable Andrew Potts, who died in a collision while on duty in 2005. A year later, his partner Constable Matt Hanes and his father Bob Potts created the Andy Potts Memorial Foundation. The foundation partnered with Hospice Muskoka to build Andy’s House, which accepted its first patient two years ago this week. Matt Steer, public relations and fundraising specialist for Hospice Muskoka, said the anniversary has allowed their staff to pause and reflect.
“The progress that’s been made in the organization of Hospice Muskoka and at Andy’s House has been huge,” Steer said. “It’s also a time to be able to look forward at the role that Hospice Muskoka and Andy’s House is going to play in the coming years as well in the region.”
The facility started with three end-of-life beds and a staff of 12 people. Since then, they’ve grown to eight beds and a team of 23 nurses and personal support workers. They’ve had 180 residents receive care over two years, and a third of them have been in the last six months alone.
The expansion to eight beds was made possible through a short-term agreement with Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare, but Hospice Muskoka is still petitioning for full government funding for all eight beds. They’re also petitioning for support for a pediatric-specific palliative care room, which they hope to have open by the end of the year.
Government funding currently covers just 45 per cent of Hospice Muskoka’s operations, and because they don’t charge people in need of palliative care, they rely on donations for the remainder of their costs. Funding is crucial to keep as many beds as possible open at Andy’s House, Steer said, but it’s also essential in allowing Hospice Muskoka to expand.
“There are only eight beds [at Andy’s House], and there are people out in the community that have other plans when it comes to end-of-life care,” he said. “They may want to stay in their homes, and so we want to be able to increase our services over the next few years and really be able to serve the towns of Gravenhurst and Bracebridge.”
Steer said they hope to set up sites across their service area of southern and western Muskoka to offer pain management clinics, grief and bereavement services, and advanced care planning services. Having physical spaces to gather outside of Andy’s House will allow them to grow their services while also making them more accessible to a wider range of people.
In the meantime, they’re borrowing space at St. Thomas Anglican Church in Bracebridge to host a grief and bereavement group for parents and youth coping with death. The group will meet on the third Tuesday of each month, and though admission is free, registration is required.
Community-led fundraisers continue to make a huge difference in supporting Hospice Muskoka and its services, Steer said, and they’re incredibly grateful to the people who take the time to organize third-party events. Whether it be cooking classes, community barbecues or a Halloween-themed hike, there are often many ways for locals to get involved and make a donation.
People looking to support Hospice Muskoka can also purchase a virtual butterfly to display their loved one’s name or enter a 50/50 draw for a chance to win money. No matter the method of support, every little bit helps people in Muskoka deal with death.
“We know that there is a huge demand for our services currently, and that need will only continue to grow in the coming years,” Steer said. “Our hope is that we can meet that demand across all corners of our region and help as many people as we can along the journey.”