Marilyn Coltonby Marilyn Colton, Administrator

Almonte Country Haven is an OMNI home located at 333 Country Street, Almonte, ON and is home to 82 residents.

As you know, palliative care is the most important program within Long Term Care since this is the ‘home’ of our residents and where they wish to spend their final days. Our palliative care program is modelled on the ‘Square of Care’ (Guide to hospice palliative care) which describes the six essential steps in the care process: assessment, information sharing, decision making, care planning, care delivery and confirmation. Each step of the care process applies to the issues or domains that residents and families face, ie., disease management, physical, psychological, social, spiritual, practical, end of life/death management and loss/grief issues.

Once a resident becomes palliative, we initiate the process of a ‘Comfort Care team huddle’ which involves the resident, as appropriate, the family, staff and volunteers. The intent is to focus on the ‘square of care’ and thereby empower all stakeholders to best address resident and family concerns and issues during this phase of life. Therefore, the huddles provide for a reflection on holistic resident care and service as well as family preferences for the palliative/end-of-life care provided to their relative. In addition, the huddles provide an opportunity for staff to understand the needs and wishes of the family so that we can provide the necessary comfort and support for them throughout this phase.

Secondly, for those residents in semi-private or basic accommodation, our serenity room provides for tranquility through the use of soft lighting, battery-operated candles and special quilts/shawls provided by our local quilters. As well, there is a private bathroom, air conditioning, telephone, television and sofa for overnight accommodation, if desired. Additional support to families, throughout this time, is the provision of comfort care bags which contain a variety of common personal hygiene items as well as complimentary meals on a 24/7 basis.

After death, and with agreement of the resident and/or family, we offer a closure service comprised of short prayers and words which reflect the deceased resident’s views/values/beliefs. The intent of the service is to provide closure for the family, current residents and our staff since each resident becomes a member of the closely-knit ACH family. A special quilt, embroidered with our Canadian flag, covers the body on departure and is returned to the home as an indication that life goes on. Residents and staff have the opportunity to express their sympathy to the family at the conclusion of the closure service. At that time, and to demonstrate our respect for the deceased resident, our Canadian flag is lowered to half mast over the following 24 hrs.

A ‘Memories and Moments’ café is offered to the family after each closure service. It  provides an opportunity for staff to share special moments they experienced with the deceased resident and affords a sense of caring, compassion and respect toward that resident.

A special placemat with candles is placed at the usual mealtime setting of the deceased resident over 3 meals following the death. This is intended to honour the resident and facilitate the grieving process by providing for verbal communication among staff and residents during mealtimes.

Lastly, we conduct a ‘Celebration of Life’ annually in May and at that time read out the names of all those deceased within the previous year. We also have our serenity room ‘Blessed’ by the pastors who facilitate this service.

Our families have the opportunity to evaluate the effectiveness of our palliative care program and, to date, have indicated that it is a ‘Best Practice’ in long term care.