Love in loss: The Teresa Dellar Palliative Care Residence
The Teresa Dellar Palliative Care Residence is doing a lot right. I knew that before meeting with Dale Weil, the center’s executive director. But what I didn’t quite fully grasp the extent of was the lengths to which the staff, volunteers, and other members of the residence will go to to ensure peace, comfort, and quality of care for both patients and patient’s families and loved ones.
One of the best parts about my job as a writer is the people I get to meet and connect with. Even more rewarding is having the privilege to write about things that are important to me and tell stories I feel the world – or at the very least, the West Island – should hear.
And if there’s a story I feel like you should know about this week, it’s this one.
Unfortunately, one of the only things guaranteed in this life is the fact that it will one day come to an end. Some people’s time is unfairly cut short, while others seem to have an (almost) endless supply. No matter the situation though, reaching the inevitable end-of-life phase of a family member or loved one never becomes any easier.
In many ways, coming to a collective decision that a patient has reached the end of life is one of the biggest acts of kindness we can give to a person. Promising them pain management, comfort, love, and support through some of the hardest moments of their life which will undoubtedly lead to some of the hardest in our own takes incredible courage, strength, and resilience.
It goes without saying that so much of “normal life” for businesses and institutions was stripped away with the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hit hardest were hospitals and other facilities which facilitate long or short-term care, of which the Teresa Dellar Palliative Care Residence is one.
The center relies heavily on volunteer support, but the intensity of the Coronavirus pandemic combined with the vulnerability of the resident's patients meant limitations were necessary to ensure the utmost safety of patients, family, and staff.
Across the nation, Canadians breathed a collective sigh of relief as cases began to drop, restrictions began to lift, and vaccinations began to roll out. Nowhere was that sigh louder than within Canada’s healthcare institutions.
In their commitment to achieve and maintain the utmost quality of care for both patients and families of patients the center has recently implemented a variety of services and programs to bring joy, creativity, and healing to all those who enter.
In April, music therapist Dan Goldman joined the team. Since then music therapy sessions and services have been available to all patients and families. Through the clinical implementation of music, patients and families are able to achieve therapeutic gain.
“Thanks to music, we can alleviate symptoms such as pain, agitation, and anxiety and enhance communication and quality of life.”
- Dan Goldman, Music Therapist
"Music is such an important element at the residence. We always have some form of music playing and even have musicians come in on a volunteer basis to play for the patients. We all at one point or another have experienced the power of music and what it can do for people."
- Dale Weil, Executive Director
As the ground began to thaw, the weather continued to warm and cases remained at an all-time low, the center was able to launch two of their most recent projects “Growing with Grief” and “Walking with Grief”.
Every two weeks, a group of roughly ten get together at different locations within the West Island to walk, move their bodies, and connect over their recent loss in nature. As universal as grief is, it can be an incredibly isolating thing. Giving mourners the space and company to walk through their feelings - literally and figuratively - in the company of others going through similar things is incredibly cathartic.
“The benefits of being in nature are well known and the Walking with Grief group allows participants an added opportunity to connect with others who have lived an experience of loss.”
- Pauline Orr, a social worker at the residence and facilitator of Walking with Grief
Growing with Grief on the other hand is a 10-week program for family members and loved ones in bereavement that combines both gardening and art therapy. “I like the idea of expressing grief through nature because it encompasses the notion that everything goes back to the earth,” said Sarah Tevyaw, the Residence’s Art therapist. “We cultivate growth—and there’s an acceptance that we don’t know how a garden will turn out.”
There is something incredibly liberating about cultivating life in a time of loss.
Before my conversation with Dale, family members and loved ones weren’t what came to mind when I thought about end-of-life care. It was in speaking with her that I realized so much of what palliative care consists of comes after a patient has passed.
In as much as the grieving process is universal, it is also one of a kind.
Social, cultural, political, economic, and psychological factors all contribute to a very nuanced, unequaled experience of grief, and it is the center’s duty to remain sensitive to that.
"Oftentimes, depending on a person's culture there are different customs and traditions of grief which we always try to facilitate to ensure a peaceful and fulfilled mourning process."
- Dale Weil, Executive Director
To ignore or turn a blind eye to someone's ethnic or cultural background, especially in a time of loss is one of the most damaging things a person could do to another. These family members and loved ones have already lost someone, the last thing they need is to lose themselves.
Most recently, the Teresa Dellar palliative care residence launched its collaboration with A Horse Tale Rescue, an organization dedicated to providing a safe, comfortable, and loving environment for horses that pass through their gates. On July 2nd, 2021, the residence welcomed Rusty, A Horse Tale’s traveling rescue horse to the residence where he toured and sat with a number of patients be it by their balconies or in the common areas of the center.
“Bringing one of our rescue horses to a palliative care residence was a dream for me. To witness the sensitive approach of Rusty that literally energized patients was heartwarming and I am convinced that we truly made a difference in people’s lives.”
- Mike Grenier, AHT Rescue Executive Director
The hard work and dedication on behalf of all staff and volunteers at the Teresa Dellar Palliative Care Residence are inspiring. Further, it is a gentle but necessary reminder that even in the darkest, most painful moments of life there is an opportunity for beauty, growth, and humanity.
To volunteer with or make a donation to the residence, visit https://residencesoinspalliatifs.com/en/