By Allison Griffith RN. Coordinator Volunteers HHNL

Our life is a story and the ending matters.”
-Dr. Atal Gawand

The OutCare Foundation has faithfully supported the Home Hospice North Lanark (HHNL) home visiting program by their generous grants over the past several years. As I leave my role as Coordinator of Volunteers HHNL on Aug 25, 2021, I reflect on the generosity of the OutCare Foundation over the years. This generosity has allowed us to integrate the expressive arts into our home visiting program and to help give voice to grief and reclaim joy as we share end of life journeys.

The typology of disease at the end of life includes frailty and dementia, cancer, organ failure to name a few. Each disease has its own theives that gradually try to steal the things that make us whole: chronic obstructive lung disease, steals our breath; esophageal cancer, steals our voice and dementia steals our memory to name a few. What all these diseases have in common is that they create a grief for the person and family and can steal the joy of simple pleasure in life and darken the remaining days. In my work with people dying at home I have spent the past seven years thinking beyond the physical needs and getting to know the spirit of each person. It is in the spirit that the beauty of life remains in the end-of-life journey. I work closely with the Home Hospice North Lanark (HHNL) visiting team which includes trained hospice visiting volunteers who share the end-of-life journey by listening to life stories and through their gentle presence.

What stands out to me as I reflect on home hospice visits, is how through creative expression the lost joy can be found. Each intervention is unique and based on life stories. A few interventions of creative expression include: the last dance, with a music therapist at the piano, allows a final waltz; the last letter, with assistance of a volunteer allows a chance to say goodbye; a last kitchen party, with friends rather than a funeral; hand stitched quilts by the Almonte Crazy Quilters, bring comfort; art journaling, gives voice to grief when words aren’t enough. Although this integration of the arts may seem unremarkable the life that its breaths into people’s final days is nothing short of …remarkable!

Thank you to the OutCare Foundation for its generosity over many years and to our Team of HHNL Visiting Team, together we can make a difference!