September is Continuing Care Month in Nova Scotia. We’re profiling Red Crossers in recognition of all the great work they do in caring for people outside of a hospital setting.

Cathy Oakley travels all over Cape Breton and Guysborough County in Nova Scotia as part of her job with the Canadian Red Cross bed loan program. She delivers, installs and even repairs electric beds that are similar to those used in hospitals for people who require them at home.

Cathy Oakley

Cathy Oakley loads up the truck to get ready for a bed delivery.

She often gets a puzzled look when she knocks on someone’s door, and then comes the question: “where’s the man who’s supposed to deliver my bed?” But in a matter of minutes, Cathy quickly puts them at ease. She has more than enough strength to carry in the various components of the bed, such as the headboard, footboard, mattress and motor.

It’s a different kind of strength that’s most needed to do this job: having the compassion and empathy to help people through what is often a very stressful and emotional situation. Many people using the beds are returning home after a stay in hospital, and about 75% of them are palliative clients.

Cathy takes the time to talk to clients and their family, to reassure them and answer any questions they may have. She takes great pride in being able to represent the Red Cross and has been known to go out of her way to deliver a bed, in challenging conditions and hard to access locations.

That pride goes back to when Cathy was only 8 years old, after her family’s home burned down. “The Red Cross stepped in to help my family - all 10 of us - by setting up hospital beds in the one room that was salvageable. Ever since then, I’ve supported the Red Cross.”

She was a disaster management volunteer prior to being hired on as a staff member.

The Canadian Red Cross HELP bed loan program is funded by the provincial government and offered by referral through Continuing Care.