Fern Brydon, Manager of Hospice and Palliative Care

Fern Brydon has learned countless life-changing lessons through her years as Annapolis Valley’s manager of hospice, palliative and continuing care. Earlier in her career, she worked for the Victorian Order of Nurses (VON) where she helped shape the Valley’s hospice movement.

“I worked for VON 25 years ago when employees and Board members began advocating for hospice, and I’ve been involved in one way or another ever since,” says Fern.

Having worked in her current role for 10 years, Fern shares that while many aspects of the dying process are the same, every situation is unique. “I feel like I remember every death. Some were from my family, some were not,” says Fern.

Fern, who’s responsible for ensuring any advances in palliative care are integrated into the Valley’s programs, says palliative care impacts everyone in the community. “We make a difference. It might be helping the patient, it might be the family, it might be a care taker, a friend or even a child – but everyone is impacted by the death of a loved one. Being there to support them is very fulfilling and truly an honour,” says Fern.

Palliative care can happen at different stages in a person’s illness. “Palliative care is not something that should only happen at the end of a person’s life. The time between an end-of-life diagnosis and death is considered a palliative journey,” says Fern. “Palliative care providers specialize in working with you to determine what’s important during your end of life. We can’t cure you, but we can help you.”

Fern explains that many people want to die at home with their loved ones beside them but there are cases where their families cannot provide that care at home which can cause feelings of guilt and despair. For those families, she hopes the hospice will provide a comfortable home-like experience with specially-trained staff to care for them once opened in early 2020.

“Families are welcome to participate, but the Valley Hospice will allow them to truly ‘be with their loved ones’ as a family member rather than a caregiver,” she says.

Fern’s commitment to the Valley Hospice began 25 years ago and she’s overjoyed to see it become a reality.

“I feel truly honored to continue my involvement in the hospice to this day, and to be able to stand at the site as the walls go up,” says Fern. “Although, I know people will die in the hospice – including my own loved ones – I do believe the experience will be one that allows for good memories and peaceful deaths.”

As for the lessons Fern has learned about death along the way – they’ve played a large role in how she views life.

“My patients have taught me that death doesn’t have to be something that’s feared. Instead, it can be a beautiful experience,” says Fern. “I feel it’s such an honor to be present when someone passes. It’s difficult to explain; it’s a life-changing moment, and when I know the person dying is at peace, I am at peace as well.”