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Quest for comfort

Sault family raises funds to assist palliative care patients
Georgina Bennett, widow of James (Jim) Bennett, Shelley Raymond, daughter of James Bennett, Steve Bennardo, Motion Specialties Sault Ste. Marie sales consultant and Helina McGrath, Ontario Finnish Resthome executive director of care services, with a new, specially designed mattress for palliative care patients at the Ontario Finnish Resthome, May 4, 2017. Darren Taylor/SooToday

For most of us, a mattress is nothing more and nothing less than an essential household item, but not for Shelley Raymond and her mother Georgina Bennett.

James (Jim) Bennett passed away Oct. 17, 2015 at the F.J. Davey Home.

“We stayed with my Dad in the palliative suite he was in for two weeks prior to his passing, we were with him day and night for those two weeks,” Raymond recalled, speaking to SooToday.

In addition to the heartache of seeing a loved one pass away, Raymond saw something else to consider.

“We were able to see things we could improve upon, things we could possibly look at changing.”

“The biggest thing was my Dad had to be flipped every two hours so he wouldn’t develop bed sores, and I said ‘I wish that Dad could have been on that lovely mattress he was on in the hospital,’” said Raymond, a Sault native who now lives in Sudbury with her husband, who stays in regular contact with her mother.

Raymond said it is a matter of procedure that nursing home residents, once they are determined to be palliative care patients, are not able to stay in hospital and not always able to be admitted to a hospice such as ARCH, but rather, must go back to their nursing home to die.

“The nursing homes are not equipped to take care of people who are dying, in terms of making them comfortable, they really are not,” Raymond stated.

“They do their very best, they really do, but this wonderful mattress that my Dad was on in the hospital would have made his last days comfortable, and he was not able to be on one.”

That’s where Raymond’s quest for comfort for palliative care patients in nursing homes started.

Raymond launched the James K. Bennett Palliative Care Fund.

“I thought I would like to buy some of those mattresses so that other people wouldn’t have to suffer, so we said ‘okay let’s do it,’ let’s see about raising some money and buy some mattresses and do some good.”

Raymond said her father would have done the same for others, mentioning his years of community service as a lodge member and sports coach.

“We took our grief and put it to good work.”

Raymond, her family and friends held a fundraiser (a dinner and silent auction) in Oct. 2016 at Grand Gardens North.

To date, Raymond has raised $12,000 for the mattress cause.

Small, local businesses have stepped up to help with fundraising, Raymond said.

“They helped us the most, family-run businesses.”

With $12,000 raised, Raymond sought out a supplier from which to buy a mattress.

“I thought ‘maybe we can buy a few of those mattresses!’” Raymond exclaimed.

“We got hold of Motion Specialties and they were able to talk to their supplier, Blake Medical.”

Motion Specialties suggested Raymond contact Blake Medical and explain the heartrending circumstances behind her cause, thinking Blake Medical just might be persuaded to donate a mattress.

Each mattress usually sells for $4,000, but Blake Medical sold three to Raymond for $2,000 each, and donated a fourth, leaving Raymond with $6,000 in fundraising money.

“It’s been wonderful,” Raymond said.

“Motion Specialties Sault Ste. Marie is proud to be a part of making a difference in the lives of local seniors through the donation of specialized mattresses to long-term care homes in our community,” wrote Steve Bennardo, Motion Specialties Sault Ste. Marie sales consultant, in an email to SooToday.

“Knowing that individuals in palliative care will spend most of their time in bed, the donated mattresses provide much needed pressure management to enhance comfort and care,” Bennardo stated. 

“Steve and Blake Medical were instrumental in making it happen,” Raymond said.

“With that money (the $6,000 left over) we can help to educate PSWs or other people who might want to be trained in palliative care…we’re looking at people who are PSWs in nursing homes who do want to stay working in a nursing home environment and really care about people and want to help them die comfortably.”

“The more money we have, the more mattresses we can get, the more special hospital gowns we can get for palliative care patients, the more meals we can buy (for families who stay by the bedside of dying loved ones), the more education we can do for PSWs…honestly, if we had better palliative care for people we wouldn’t need to have an assisted dying law in this country, in my opinion,” Raymond stated.

“We’re doing what we can to make people comfortable.”

Four special mattresses (one for the Ontario Finnish Resthome, one for Extendicare Maple View and two for the F.J. Davey Home) were delivered in the first week of March, with an “official presentation” of the Finnish Resthome’s mattress May 4.

The F.J. Davey Home received two mattresses, Raymond explained, as it is the only nursing home in the Sault specially equipped with palliative care suites, with amenities such as kitchenette spaces for families. 

Moving forward, there will be one specific dinner and silent auction fundraiser a year dedicated to purchasing special mattresses, Raymond said.

Businesses are being asked to donate items for the silent auction, as well as for help in selling tickets to the dinner and silent auction event, to be held Sept. 20 at Grand Gardens North.

Tickets are available for $35 each.

Tickets are available by calling Georgina Bennett at 705 949 0702 or by contacting Shelley Raymond by email at

“It’s very important, because my husband was always helping people…it’s very important to help people to be more comfortable when they are passing,” Georgina Bennett said.

“It makes me feel very humbled because we’re just a couple of people in a family who tried to make a difference and we really can make a difference.  I feel my father would be very proud of us,” Raymond said.  

“It makes me feel so pleased to be able to help out the community where I came from and help out elderly people who have given so much for our country who deserve better treatment at the end of their lives.”