Hospice Heart Stories

Harley's Story

Harley Searson is a changed man.

He had all but given up living when he started seeing Dr. Glen Maddison at the Palliative Care Clinic at St. Joseph’s Hospice in October 2015. Harley’s wife, Carol, was at her wit’s end: her husband of 48 years was unable to do anything but sit – the same man who was father of their two sons and had been an active police officer for 36 years. But the Clinic, and the Hospice’s Living Life Well program have helped Harley’s health and outlook take a dramatic turn.

“It was my third appointment at the Clinic,” recalls Harley. “I was in the waiting room, and Shari (Scarpelli – Palliative Care Clinic Administrator) was filling out paperwork. I told her we were looking for a way to get respite for Carol, who was my caregiver. Shari didn’t hesitate, and contacted Lisa Adams, the Living Life Well Coordinator.”

Lisa visited Harley at home a short time later, and talked to the Searsons about what was available at Hospice. She mentioned the Living Life Well Programs, which include the Day Hospice, which is a group of up to 10 who meet twice monthly at Hospice (which also provides support and respite for the caregiver) – but seeing the state of Harley’s health, she wasn’t sure he could manage the program at this time. Instead, Lisa arranged for a visiting volunteer, whose one-on-one home visits also provide respite for the caregiver.

The combination of having his medications balanced, and the emotional support of the volunteer visits soon helped Harley feel well enough to go to the day program at Hospice. His first time there, the group sang a song called “Love is Added Here” which the group had written with their music therapist about their own personal connection with St. Joseph’s Hospice. Harley – feeling as he says “boisterous” – asked what they were going to do with the song since they put so much work into it. Since then, our Music Therapist has performed the song at the Hospice Board of Directors’ Christmas party and at the volunteer luncheon.

It is this feeling of being a part of something that draws Harley to the program at Hospice. “So many people could use this program but maybe don’t know about it,” says Harley. “You can share your experiences here, your strengths and hope, and it benefits the others as much as it benefits you.”

It also means his wife has some worry-free free time again. “I can’t tell you how thrilled I was when Harley started this program,” she says. “I haven’t seen him this excited about anything in two or three years. It has given us both a new lease on life.”

“It’s a very positive atmosphere,” adds Harley. “The theme is ‘we’re alive today, so let’s be comfortable and enjoy life to the fullest’. The more you talk to people the better you feel.”

Harley credits his “improvement” to Dr. Maddison’s ability to stabilize his medication, but also to the other staff at Hospice. “Shari is so hard-working and does a fabulous job. Lisa was so kind and gentle when she came to my home. They and the rest of the staff and volunteers have made a world of difference in lives.”