West Lake LEC underscores importance of proactive end-of-life care planning

It’s especially important for staff to learn about the wishes of residents without families, says Janie Denard

When a resident without a family recently passed away at West Lake Terrace, staff members took it upon themselves to make arrangements and host a service at the home.

But the process wasn’t easy, says Janie Denard, the Prince Edward County long-term care home’s life enrichment co-ordinator (LEC).

While most long-term-care home residents have families to support them, some do not. For residents without families, Janie says staff members want to make sure they’re having their end-of-life wishes respected.

And this starts with having conversations with those residents, even if the conversation might be uncomfortable, she says. This means having discussions with residents within the first few months of admission about how they want to be remembered.

If a person without a family should pass away while living at the home, staff members want to know if these residents wish to have a service. If so, who do they want attending, what type of music they want played, do they want it to be a religious or a non-religious service – these are questions that need to be addressed, Janie says.

“We want that journey to be more personable for the resident; it’s about who they are as a person and us respecting their wishes,” she says.

“We’re going to start off slowly, but we’re going to start having those really important conversations with people.”

Janie says she and director of care Jackie Maxwell began talking about this when they noticed there were a few other residents without families at the home, and they wanted to ensure their wishes were respected.

“We want to remember that person as they wish to be remembered,” Janie says. “Some people may not want to have a service, so we want to make sure we have something in place so that we can be respectful of their wishes at that time.

“For residents who come to the home with no families, it’s a real challenge for us.”

Having in-home services for those residents who wish to have them is important to other residents at the home, Janie adds.

“We’re also going to start having smaller memorial services (at West Lake Terrace), just to recognize that person and their life and that they were a part of our family,” she says.

“(We want) to provide all residents the opportunity to be a part of that grieving process.”

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