“A Sacred Journey”: Respecting End of Life Care

29 January, 2024 | Actionmarguerite

At Actionmarguerite, a long-term care provider with three locations in Winnipeg, a culture of respect and dignity permeates operational decisions and care plans for every resident. For many who live in one of these facilities, Actionmarguerite is also where they will receive end of life care, and staff ensure that this important and often emotional and difficult time is thoughtfully considered, as well.

The Cherry Blossom program is a visual and artistic representation and reminder of the special care needed as a resident approaches end of life. “With the permission of the family, we place a flickering, battery-operated candle outside their door as a discrete request for quiet,” explains Stephen Tautjo, Director of Care for Actionmarguerite (St. Joseph). “There are signs in the elevators to help staff and families understand what the candle signifies and how they can be respectful during this time.”

The cherry blossom concept was borrowed from other health care facilities in North America and was suggested by Actionmarguerite’s Spiritual Care Provider Caroline Mount in 2017. The program began with just a poster reminding people to be respectful, and the candle was added in 2023, as a further visual representation. In Japanese culture, the cherry blossom symbolises the fleeting nature of life, as well as its great beauty.

Tautjo explains that Actionmarguerite is home for hundreds of residents, and it’s important to have the laughter and friendship that anyone would expect in their home, for residents and their families, but also among staff. That said, a lot of visitors and contract staff visit the long-term care facilities and there are times where a quiet, peaceful environment is most appropriate.

Stephen Tautjo

“We’ve heard of instances where someone is approaching end of life with their family gathered around them, and a few rooms down, families are cheering on a hockey game,” says Tautjo. “We also have some residents with dementia in our facilities, and when someone is approaching end of life, we will try to ensure that residents who like to wander can be redirected for a time to offer privacy.”

Actionmarguerite offers other supports to families visiting a loved one who’s receiving end of life care. “This is about supporting families in any way that we can,” Tautjo continues. “We also have something called a comfort cart that we bring into the room, which has items people sometimes forget or might need. Coffee, music, reading materials, these are the things we bring so they don’t have to worry about it. And we’ll bring in a recliner so that families can stay comfortably with their loved ones.”

Staff and families have embraced the Cherry Blossom program, which Tautjo is thankful for. “It’s about communicating that we need to exercise compassion when someone is passing away,” he shares. “That is very sacred to me, that final journey. It’s so important that we get this right.”