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“Memories from the Heart” Java in Palliative Care

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Sharron OARC-SmallerMy name is Sharron Cooke and I am the president of the Ontario Association of Residents’ Councils (OARC). I would like to share with you an idea that we came up with to use the traditional talking stick from the Java Music Club program in my home. The purpose of the talking stick is to honor and respect others—and in our case, to give residents a stronger voice.

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On the left is a photo of our secretary, Jo-Anne Whitton, holding the talking stick. In this past year we have lost several beloved members our council. It was a difficult time and we decided to have a special ceremony using the talking stick to honor their memory—everyone had a chance to share as we said goodbye to our friends and fellow advocates.

Also, I recently lost 3 very dear friends in the care home where I live as well as the 3 on the provincial council. We have the Java Music Club program here and I have been visiting with families and residents that have been passing, and wished I had something like Java to help them. I remembered our special ceremony at the OARC and so I created an adapted version of Java to support our new palliative care program. We decided to call it ‘Memories from the Heart’ and adapt the ideas from Java of sharing from the heart in a circle, using the talking stick. Residents helping residents.

At our recent Java Memories from the Heart, we had 8 residents and 1 family member and the social worker in our home form a circle in the fireplace room. I set up the table with special table cloths with stars going across the centre of the table with a vase of flowers and a special tea light. On the mantle I placed the memorial pictures of each resident. We started by introducing each other and talking one at a time with the Java talking stick about how each person felt with the passing of our dear friends.

This was truly beautiful and very inspirational. Each and every person spoke up expressing their feelings and thoughts they had of each resident that had passed. I read 2 veteran quotes and a prayer because 2 of our residents were veterans. I then read a poem that I found on the internet. The social worker took the stick and expressed how she felt about this program and how we could build our Palliative Program to help each person with support from us. We then went around again with the stick and each person expressed again how they felt with dying and various feelings of how they dealt with situations.

The Java Music Club and our adapted version, Memories from the Heart, are both beautiful programs and will definitely help all residents help each other deal with their feelings and release what is held inside.

Thank you for letting me share these stories with you. If you are not familiar with OARC, we have a dedicated group of residents from long-term care homes that form a governing board. The primary goals of OARC are to support Residents’ Councils in Ontario, speak with one voice for residents, promote a standard of care, and influence legislation, all so that residents who are living in long-term care homes can maintain their independence, privacy and dignity. Please visit our website to find out more! http://www.ontarc.com/

Sharron Cooke, President of OARC (Ontario Association of Residents’ Councils)

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