The recently renamed Teresa Dellar Palliative Care Residence (formerly known as the West Island Palliative Care Residence and now named in honour of its founder, who passed away two years ago) has introduced several new programs to help both their residents as well as their families through one of the most difficult phases of life. These include music and animal therapy as a form of palliative care and offering support to people who are going through loss.

“Our goal is to help people live as best as they can until they die and get the most out of their days,” said the residence’s executive director, Dale Weil. “We provide the best compassionate care possible and help them manage their symptoms, whether it’s anxiety or pain. We also support the family through the whole journey, both while their loved ones are staying here and afterwards.”

Last April they launched music therapy with a certified music therapist who spends time with patients and their families.

“Music has been with us for centuries. It’s been a part of many rituals and cultural activities, and it’s there with us from the day we’re born,” Weil explained. “Music and medicine have always been complementary. Music therapy can be as simple as sharing their favourite types of music and having the therapist create a playlist or creating music with instruments. They may even want to write a song and put it to music to create something that becomes a legacy for their families.”

Other support-focused programs include Walking With Grief and Growing With Grief, both of which are open not only to those who have lost a loved one at the Residence, but also to anyone in the community experiencing loss, grief, and bereavement.

Walking With Grief has 10 people supported by one of their facilitators, and they meet every two weeks at an outdoor location in the West Island to walk in nature and talk, reflect, and more.

“They walk through a park surrounded by peace and nature, and it’s a good environment to reflect, observe and appreciate, plus it’s a great way to move the body,” Weil said. “It all has benefits to one’s wellbeing, and they are all bound together by the experience of a loss. They really derive a sense of relief by relating to others who are going through the same thing.”

The Growing With Grief group helps participants along their journey of loss through gardening, harvesting, and art therapy.

“The gardens, which were created by volunteers, is where this group meets, and the participants have been able to connect but they’re also able to plant vegetables, flowers and therapeutic plants, plus they can water, harvest and weed. And they do art-based activities, such as prints with flowers,” Weil said. “All the while they’re talking and bringing ideas and helping each other.”

Finally, the Residence recently started collaborating with A Horse Tale Rescue, a not-for-profit that houses 14 rescued horses and provides equine-assisted activities for the wellbeing of various groups. This past July, they welcomed Rusty, their “travelling” rescue horse, to the residence, where he was able to personally visit each of the ground floor units.

“Rusty is a very special, sensitive, majestic horse,” Weil said of the rescued caleche horse. “He’s so calm and easy to appreciate, and it was quite rewarding for people to have this visit from Rusty.”

These programs at the Residence have helped those in palliative care and their families too, providing them with fulfilling opportunities and ways in which to cope with such challenging end-of-life circumstances.

“A lot of people might think of a residence as a place where people come to die, but it’s where they come to live,” Weil said. “We want to make sure people go in dignity the best way they can and be surrounded by love. It’s the importance of those final days that stays with the families, and we want those last days to be as good as they can be.”

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