A home from home at the end of life

 A-M StruijkMessage from President 2015

After four years fully operational, we can now say with confidence that La Maison de Tara provides a number of fundamental requirements in the matter of care-giving for those at the end of life:

  • There is the need to compensate for the absence of supporting family members in a changing society - a working spouse/partner, families spread and living far from one another……
  • The widespread need of support for both the sick person and their families at this particular time in their lives and ideally within a close and caring environment.
  • The wish to avoid or to limit the need to be “automatically” hospitalised at the end of a person’s life.
  • The need to encourage care-givers (volunteer and health-care professionals alike) to administer basic palliative treatment within the home environment.  
  • The hoped-for benefit that our society will change its attitude about the subject of death and the end of life.

 On reflection, we came to the realisation that the key to the success of our work is in the care of the patients’ family members. In fact, we have clearly seen over and over again that one of the chief sources of worry for someone who is gravely or terminally sick, is the effect their illness has on their loved ones. Our residents are relieved to see their friends and family members supported at any given moment.


How can we support the carers?

By the round-the-clock presence of staff, both professional and volunteers, who are there to listen to them at all times. Of course, the helpers need assurance that adequate and timely care is being administered, but also to know that they may express their own suffering, and voice any questions they have relating to death.  That they are free to express their own fatigue, and doubts, their disappointments and anger, their memories – both good and bad ones - their regrets, their hopes and fears; all of those questions that one naturally wants to ask when confronted with the imminent death of a loved one.

Families also tell us just how much they appreciate not having to think about the daily chores of washing, cleaning and cooking, freeing them up to spend quality time with their loved ones.

One of our fundamental objectives is the training and experience-building of our volunteers. In fact, independent of the volunteer work they do here at Tara, it is inevitable that our volunteers will all one day be a carer for one of their own family members or within the community.  When that happens, they will be very well-prepared, thanks to all that they have learned and experienced during their time at Tara.

Our volunteers too, express how rewarding the experience is, gained during their training AND in the course of their interaction with the residents.  They come to the realisation that their own perspective on life and death changes over time.   Learning just “how to be” in the context of suffering at the end of life is a privilege often received with grace and thanks.

And those at this moment in their life are true teachers who can show us how to acquire courage and kindness. The experience teaches us to be non-judgmental, to have patience and tolerance and to open our hearts even under difficult circumstances.  To accompany such people is a valuable life’s lesson and allows one to rethink personal priorities and to give real sense to one’s life.
In June of last year, we welcomed Frank Ostaseski who hosted a two-day seminar at Webster university. The theme of this training was on the importance of developing wisdom - not only with the residents and their families, but also with the carers and all those with whom we collaborate at La Maison de Tara.  Together, we worked on developing our listening skills, how to be present and also how to safeguard our emotional equilibrium.  Frank’s teaching was pragmatic and enormously appreciated by all the participants who enjoyed also this opportunity to share their experiences from their work at Tara.

The number of our volunteers remains stable on the whole.  Over the course of the years we have been able to count on more than one hundred volunteers.  They come from all walks of life and not just those who have retired from active work as one might imagine.  Two thirds of our volunteers are still active professionally and ever more young people are joining our ranks.  Over the course of 2015 we trained a further 30 new volunteers.

Each Summer, as is the custom, a “Fête de familles” is held in our magnificent garden with the participation of staff and volunteers.  This year was no exception.  With the kind support of the Commune de Chêne Bougeries, the event was a great success with music and even dancing under the marquee.  On this occasion we gave our thanks to two staff members who were leaving and welcomed a new member into the fold.

In addition, the group “Ma non troppo” once again lent their support to Tara with a musical show of amusing scenes around the airs and duets of Mozart, Rossini and Offenbach.  This entertaining concert enabled us to make a collection for La Maison de Tara.

In general, our fundraising efforts have been productive this year allowing us to go into 2016 confident that we can fulfil our mission.  Of course this does NOT mean we can sit on our laurels, but must go on steadfastly in order to make sure we cover our running costs.

At the beginning of the year following a meeting with Mr Adrien Bron, Director of the Department of Health, we received the official go-ahead to promote the services of La Maison de Tara within the healthcare network of the canton of Geneva.   In the Spring, we had a visit from Mme Marie Da Roxa who is the Director of IMAD (the official organisation for home healthcare in Geneva) resulting in a closer collaboration with their healthcare professionals.

We are successfully collaborating now on a regular basis with the hospitals, the clinics and the various home help organisations as well as numerous doctors.
At this year-end we can look back with pride and pleasure on a year full of activities and exchanges, happy in the knowledge that La Maison de Tara has found its rightful place amongst the various organisations which make up the healthcare network here in Geneva.


About us

La Maison de Tara was founded in Geneva in 2007 as a public utility charity in the lineage of the Hospice Movement. Its goal is to provide patients and their family, with care and support during the last days of life.

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La Maison de Tara
79, chemin de la Montagne
1224 Chêne-Bougeries

Tél : +41 (0)22 3488666
Fax : +41 (0)22 3488664