Community programs bringing new experiences at the Teresa Dellar Palliative Care Residence

Those of us who provide palliative care in various settings are always searching for how we can enhance the experience of our patients and families. Compassionate whole person care is at the core of what we do, ensuring that we understand our patients as unique individuals with their own priorities and wishes directing their care plan and symptom management while enhancing their experience with complementary therapies. Beyond holistic clinical care and family directed celebrations or rituals, there are five helpful ingredients which are important contributors to a good experience: music, art, food, flowers/gardens and animals. We blend these elements in the day-to-day environment and services. While most of what we do to provide these elements is through our professionals, support staff and volunteers, it is important to collaborate with other community organizations who can help us to deliver high quality experiences to our population while pursuing their own specialized vision.

This summer, we discovered two such opportunities, one through evaluation and planning; the other by chance. 


Rusty, our visiting horse brings refuge and memories

It is well known that the presence of animals can improve satisfaction, energy levels, self-esteem and mood in patients. The Residence recently started collaborating with the organization “A Horse Tale Rescue”. This not-for-profit houses 14 rescued horses and provides equine assisted activities for the well-being of various groups, typically at their site. We have proudly welcomed Rusty, their “travelling” therapy horse to the Residence twice since July. “The visits have been a success from every aspect, most notably the pleasure it brought to our patients,” explained Manuella Piovesan, Director of Clinical Care at the Residence.

Rusty’s first visit started with several patients and quickly spread to others and his second visit touched almost all patients at the Residence. We are fortunate, as every patient room is located on the first floor and has full door access to a patio. This majestic and sensitive horse walked outside from room to room. His handler, Mike Grenier, Executive Director of the AHT Rescue introduced himself and Rusty to each patient whose beds or reclining chairs were placed right by the door if they were not able to come outside. Rusty spent several minutes with each patient and then some additional time with family members outside. Patients had the opportunity to simply admire Rusty, make physical contact or even feed him, based on their comfort level. Good connections, memories from the past and special moments were enjoyed by all and we had very positive feedback from both patients and families. It was heart warming to witness the interaction and special meaning for each individual.

Providing this experience , while beautiful and fulfilling, requires much planning and preparation by the clinical team: determining patient and family interest, obtaining consents, managing the patient care around the event and adapting to patient readiness in the moment, while coordinating with the handlers who are also managing the needs of a travelling horse. We are very grateful to have an amazing team who find ways to make things work.

The Residence will continue to collaborate with AHT Rescue so that more patients and families can benefit from Rusty’s comforting companionship. We feel so fortunate to have discovered this organization who are committed to giving back to society with this wonderful service.


Spontaneous Opera is far reaching for those who want to listen

We all know that music soothes the soul. Music has always played an important part day to day in many rituals and celebrations at the Residence – and it can be heard as soon as one walks through the doors. We also offer music therapy in a “one on one” approach through our music therapist.

Music therapy, which is clinical use of music to achieve therapeutic goals, has been available to all our patients and families since the arrival of Dan Goldman in April. “Through the clinical use of music interventions we can accomplish individual goals in a therapeutic relationship. I strongly believe that music therapy has the power to address four key components to a patient’s journey: physiological, emotional, social and spiritual needs,” explains Dan, the Residence’s Music Therapist. “Thanks to music, we can alleviate symptoms such as pain, agitation, and anxiety and enhance communication and quality of life.”

Recently we had a surprise visit that provided an unexpected opportunity to please our patients and families: two opera singers who are part of the organization SAMS (Société des arts et musiques en santé). SAMS is an organization of professional musicians who provide concerts throughout Quebec with a view to improving the moments for patients and residents in health care establishments thought exposure to the arts. Several weeks ago, two opera singers came by the Residence and asked permission to perform for several patients and family members who were outside at the time. A beautiful three segments of opera ensued. While this was a spontaneous gesture on the part of these two musicians who were in the area, we will explore establishing future concerts for more to enjoy.

The important message for all those who try so hard to provide the very best of palliative care with limited resources and budgets, is to realize that other groups are there to help, and with collaboration and good planning, we can continue to grow our offering to patients and families who so deserve comfort, peace and dignity at a most important time in their lives.

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