The Milieu de vie (living environment) program is above all a promise of life made to the 627 residents of four long-term care centres: To be a living environment where people can live according to their pace, preferences and needs. As much as possible like being at home!
Their stay in a long-term care centre is an important step in the lives of the seniors who reside there. When it ends, they will be experiencing this final stage of their existence with their loved ones and the Milieu de vie team. It’s an emotional time. Special attention and specialized care—dispensed with skill and “humanitude”—are of the essence.
For the life unit team, guided by the Milieu de vie Committee, this episode in life must be experienced in the most positive way possible. That’s why, in 2009-10, it made efforts to improve the end-of-life support program. It became one of Milieu de vie’s five key clinical programs. The program, designed in participation with the residents, their loved ones, their families and the employees, is aimed at offering care that is attentive to the slightest needs of a resident and their loved ones throughout the resident’s end of life. It is structured according to best practices in end-of-life support and requires the involvement of the entire interdisciplinary team.
In accordance with residents’ wishes, the end of life is now experienced in their room, where they are surrounded by employees who are significant to them and the residents of neighbouring rooms. It is the program that is built around the residents: that’s what’s so innovative about it. Volunteers receive annual training in end-of-life support and obtain close supervision via informal meetings over coffee. With this training, they can support lonely residents and give families some respite.
An end-of-life kit was also created to offer greater comfort to residents and their loved ones. It includes softer sheets and clothing, a radio with soothing music, a throw for the family, a fully reclining chair so that loved ones can have a more comfortable stay, and aromatic oil diffusers. The kit is set up directly in the resident’s room.
During the resident’s end-of-life period, loved ones periodically receive coffee and pastries, tastefully wrapped. Three notebooks are placed in the room: • a first, for the family, explaining end-of-life symptoms in simple terms • a logbook where attendants can write down their thoughts • a third notebook for the volunteers.
At the residents’ request, the way the remains are disposed of after death has been reviewed and replaced by a more respectful procedure. The remains now leave the long-term-care centre by the main door. They are accompanied to the hearse van by an employee and covered with a beautiful pall.
After the death, a sympathy card is sent to the family, and professionals are on hand for loved ones. A commemorative monthly mass is held in the centre to remember the deceased residents. All of these elements make the end-of-life program original and creative.
Since it has been implemented, over 150 residents have benefited from the support service. The staff is proud of the program and has rallied together to contribute, with skill and decency, to these sensitive and essential moments.