Advance Care Planning Day – Speak Up!

Advance Care Planning Day in Canada, and National Healthcare Decisions Day in the USA, is quickly approaching. On April 16, 2016, it’s time to speak up – and have discussions with friends and family members about your wishes for end-of-life.

Life and Death Matters created Care Planning Cookies, edible cookies with a message inside, each one intended to stimulate conversations about living well and dying well. One hospital in Ontario is ensuring that each patient receives a cookie on their meal tray, and that family and staff are given cookies with their food and beverages in the cafeteria, leading up to April 16th.

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Incorporating Love In Professional Practice

Written by Kath Murray and Misha Butot. This writing was inspired by Misha’s original research and was lovingly edited by Coby Tschanz, Allyson Wightman and Joanne Thomson

Misha Butot was a counselor with 14 years of professional experience when she became curious about how love was a factor or perhaps the essence of quality physical and emotional care. She explored the ways that self-reflective and social justice oriented care providers thought and practiced “love” in their work with those they served by speaking with both clients and colleagues. She traveled through western Canada interviewing a small but diverse group of care providers of different ages, genders, sites of practice, and cultural and spiritual backgrounds. In spite of this diversity, many of their perspectives on the key role of love in their work were remarkably similar.

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“I don’t have time for this!” – A Compassionate Guide to Caring for Your Parents and Yourself

Guest blog post by Katherine Arnup – life coach, speaker, and a retired Carleton University professor.  Author of the award-winning book Education for Motherhood, a history of advice for mothers, she has pioneered studies on the diversity of family life. In her latest book, “I don’t have time for this!” A Compassionate Guide to Caring for Your Parents and Yourself, she tackles the last taboo—death itself. 

Almost twenty years ago, my sister Carol died of cancer.

She was a gifted Special Education teacher, director of countless school musicals, and my big sister. In January 1997, 19 years after her first encounter with melanoma, her cancer returned with an unstoppable force. As part of a team of friends and family, I cared for her during her final six months: the saddest, most terrifying and most transformative experience of my life.

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Music Therapy in Hospice and Palliative Care | Your Personal Soundtrack

Guest blog post by Jennifer Buchanan of JB Music Therapy – a Canadian company based in Calgary, Alberta. “Our mission at JB Music Therapy is to transform lives through excellence in clinical practice and education by bringing music into the foreground. JBMT has been providing music therapy services since 1991. We offer personalized programs for individuals coping with brain injury, mental health issues, learning challenges, dementia, palliative care, addictions, long-term care, autism, as well as youth at risk.”

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Music Therapy in Hospice and Palliative Care | Gwen’s Story

Guest blog post by Jennifer Buchanan of JB Music Therapy – a Canadian company based in Calgary, Alberta. “Our mission at JB Music Therapy is to transform lives through excellence in clinical practice and education by bringing music into the foreground. JBMT has been providing music therapy services since 1991. We offer personalized programs for individuals coping with brain injury, mental health issues, learning challenges, dementia, palliative care, addictions, long-term care, autism, as well as youth at risk.”

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Keeping Our Compassion Alive – What Works?

by Françoise Mathieu, M.Ed., CCC. Compassion Fatigue Specialist

As a compassion fatigue specialist, I have the privilege of travelling across North America each month, meeting helping professionals of all stripes: nurses, social workers, physicians, police officers, lawyers, and a myriad of others who work in high touch situations with individuals with complex needs.

Sometimes I’m offering a lunchtime keynote, and in other instances a half or full day workshop. During these trainings, participants explore the many-layered challenges of their jobs, exploring their struggles with insufficient resources, inadequate pay, secondary trauma exposure, compassion fatigue and the risks of burnout. Working in this field can be tough when there isn’t enough to go around, and we acknowledge that in our work together.

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Reflections from the Beach in Thailand

Happy New Year to friends and colleagues!

Ted and I are in Thailand visiting his brother, sister in law and their granddaughter. We had a week with Art and Aree, enjoying their farming community about five hours north of Bangkok. After seeing and being so impressed with their farming, we left for a small island, south east of Bangkok, near the Cambodian border.

reflections from the beach in thailand

Ko Kut (also spelt Ko Kood)  was a wonderful place to regroup and relax. The island has a dozen or so resorts, a few small restaurants, and some dive shops. Approximately 5,000 residents live on the island.

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Comfort Basket for the Caregiver

In our new book, Integrating a Palliative Approach: Essentials for Personal Support Workers, I use the image of a comfort basket – to refer to the collection of nonpharmacological (non medication) items caregivers can use to help promote comfort and provide support for the dying person. As we approach Christmas it seems like the perfect time to think about gifts for the caregivers.

Comfort Basket

The motto for the comfort basket is to “Respect the individual and individualize the care”. I am reminded of research out of University of Alberta several years ago.

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Refuel… pull out the picnic blanket and enjoy some nature

Illustration by Joanne Thomson for the new text, "Integrating a Palliative Approach: An Essential Resource for Personal Support Workers" Coming in October 2014

Illustration by Joanne Thomson for the new text, “Integrating a Palliative Approach: An Essential Resource for Personal Support Workers” Coming in October 2014

It is normal that caring for the dying will touch you and change you. As Rachel Naomi Remen says,

The expectation that we can be immersed in suffering and loss daily and not be touched by it is as unrealistic as expecting to be able to walk through water without getting wet. Kitchen Table Wisdom, page 52.

Self-care is important to maintaining health for all caregivers, and is especially important for those who care for the dying. There are consequences, both positive and negative, to providing palliative care. For example, being with people during their dying process may enhance your appreciation of simple things, increase your empathy and strengthen your appreciation for people facing the challenges of dying. These benefits not only increase your capacity to provide care, but they may inspire you to face your own challenges with a new strength and determination.

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Care4You conference in Kingston

Last week I attended the Care4You conference in Kingston. Francois Mathieu is Canada’s lead in addressing compassion fatigue.

Seated around “my” table were men and women who respond to a variety of crises, work in correction services, a beautiful young woman who brings “camp” to kids in hospital with cancer, a woman who teaches/leads LAUGHTER YOGA (gotta love it!) and a woman who helps people heal with the use of expressive art therapies.

The opening session was titled: “Beyond Kale and Pedicures: What really works”

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