November 20, 2023
Volunteers gave their time and talents to lovingly handcraft this gorgeous quilt to support the delivery of the White Rose program within Stettler Hospital and Care Centre. This quilt will provide gentle acknowledgement when a patient or resident passes away, as well as increase facility awareness and foster a sympathetic, quiet and compassionate atmosphere for patients and their loved ones. Pictured, from left, are: Jessie Brinson, a recreation assistant; volunteers Leona Thorogood, Karin Phibbs and Wendy Rowledge; and Sheila Gongaware, volunteer coordinator. Photo courtesy of Karin Phibbs.
Story by Jonathan Koch | Photo by Karin Phibbs
STETTLER — Volunteers here have woven empathy and compassion into a meaningful way for long-term care residents to honour lost friends and companions.
A handcrafted quilt donated to the White Rose program at Stettler Hospital and Care Centre is increasing awareness when a patient is receiving active palliative care or has passed, while also fostering a sympathetic, quiet and compassionate atmosphere for patients and their loved ones.
“We had a lot of feedback from our residents about how they were feeling left out of the grieving process, as they were also losing people that they've come to love and respect,” says Vanessa Massey, a recreation therapist at Stettler’s Heritage House long-term care centre. “We had to ask ourselves, ‘how do we support them in their grieving process too?’.”
Massey first learned of the White Rose program from Sheila Gongaware, volunteer coordinator at Stettler Hospital. The program is part of a positive end-of-life experience for patients and their loved ones, where the symbol of a white rose is used to inform health providers and volunteers that the life of a resident or patient in palliative care is nearing, or at, an end.
The duo began talking to staff, residents and volunteers in the facility to determine what aspects of the program would work best for the unit.
“We felt that these are some beautiful lives that we're losing, and we wanted to find a way to appreciate and honour that life — and just to find a way where we could incorporate empathy and compassion in that dying process,” says Massey.
In addition to placing signage on the patient’s door and white roses at their place setting in the dining room of the resident who’s passed away, a quilt was requested to cover a deceased patient or resident when they leave the facility, providing gentle acknowledgement of their passing.
Gongaware approached Alberta Health Services’ volunteers Leona Thorogood, Wendy Rowledge and Karin Phibbs to tackle the project. The trio, passionate quilters all, donated their time and the materials to design and stitch the quilt, and delivered the finished product last July.
Phibbs says it’s rewarding to see the quilt embraced by patients and their families, and not just in long-term care.
“We always put a label on our quilts, and a lady whose mother-in-law had passed in acute care reached out to me to thank us so much for what the quilt meant to her loved ones,” says Phibbs. “That was very heartwarming.”
According to Phibbs, a second quilt is now being crafted for patients in acute care, along with a quilted wall hanging to be placed on the patient’s door.
Massey adds that the White Rose program has made the residents of Heritage House part of the grieving process.
“The residents know what the white-rose signage on the door means and understand the significance of the white roses at someone’s place in the dining room,” says Massey.
Marijke Maltais, Continuing Care Manager at Stettler Hospital, finds that the program helps to bring closure to families, residents and staff.
“The White Rose program has highlighted the importance of death — and how we can support those who are grieving in the best way possible.”