The personal experience of excellent, compassionate care convinces me that our humanity is the greatest healing power we can offer. When my Mom developed significant cognitive deficits, it became obvious that it was impossible for her to stay in her home. She had lived there alone for over 30 years, far from neighbours and the nearest town, but even with lots of community services, she was having major difficulties. My Mom was an independent, quirky and somewhat eccentric 90-year-old lady, who loved animals, nature, books, spiritual life and lively political discussions over endless cups of tea. My experiences as a community consultant for palliative care had not provided me with many good models of facilities able to provide the kind of care my Mom was going to need, but we found the right one!
All the staff embraced my Mom with respect and compassion from Day One, when I found her sitting on the sunny deck, cup of tea on a little table beside her, reading her book, just as she liked to spend all her mornings. Since that day, I witnessed countless acts of kindness, gentleness and love from everyone connected with this facility as they interacted with the residents, no matter what the level of need. It seems everyone who worked there chose to do so and truly cared about the people with whom they are working, providing holistic care that focused on mind, body and spirit. There was a constant flow of community neighbours, friends and volunteers dropping by for visits, meals, activities and chats over cups of tea. This openness and healthy, interactive exchange not only kept the residents connected with the community but also kept the staff aware of their important role in the community-at-large, as well as providing constant reminders of the uniqueness of each individual for whom they are caring.
My Mom thrived in this caring and compassionate environment. She gained strength, energy and participated in outings, discussions and other activities. We saw our fading Mom blossom once more. Medication was minimal – it was the care, respect and compassion that made the difference. She died five years later, surrounded by the staff’s consistent care and love, and we, in turn, were supported by their compassion. It was such a positive journey for all of us, full of compassion and the beauty of feeling connected through all of our humanity. Even when technology and medical science has nothing to offer, so much healing can occur. If, during my AMS Phoenix Fellowship, I have been able to sow the seeds of believing in the power and goodness of our humanity, as well as the importance of staying connected with it throughout our professional lives, I will feel I have accomplished something of value.
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