A home from home at the end of life

A-M StruijkPresident's report for 2013

The Swiss National Scientific Research Fund is running a nation-wide research programme on the topic of end of life.  Its aim is to help create appropriate social policy responses to the question of how people in Switzerland wish to die.

To follow up on and respond optimally to these investigations, further resources will be needed and new solutions identified.  La Maison de Tara is already participating in this initiative, proposing a different approach to the range of options Geneva currently offers to those arriving at the final phase of their illness.

Two years into its existence, we feel that the aspect most appreciated both by the residents and their loved ones is the open, welcoming, and family-oriented approach of Tara.  They tell us how the support, assistance, and love they receive give them strength to face their difficulties in the best possible conditions.  In particular, family members appreciate the time they can devote to simply being with their loved one, rather than struggling with the intensive care and attention their sick relative requires, as is often the case in the home setting.

Concerts, birthday parties, and evening festivities are among the celebrations that have been organized at Tara by and for our residents and their loved ones.  These festivities clearly demonstrate how La Maison de Tara is providing a suitable setting for accompanying the dying, with all the attendant joys and sorrows, right up to the final days.

The “trial periods” initiated this year offer people the opportunity to experience and enjoy the atmosphere of La Maison de Tara well before they reach their final days.  Following a trial of this kind, patients can return home with the knowledge that they can, at any moment, choose to return to Tara.

We are proud to be able to call on 93 active volunteers to assist our work in the house. Those who had to leave for personal reasons in 2013 have been replaced, so volunteer numbers remain stable.  Volunteers carry out a wide variety of tasks in responding to the needs and wishes of our residents and their loved ones, in collaboration with the paid staff.  In addition, a dozen volunteers take responsibility for the garden.  During the summer, the garden is a major resource enjoyed by all; children can play on the swings and help out with watering the kitchen-garden where our delicious vegetables grow.  Thanks to the garden we can feed our residents organic vegetables grown with love!

The year 2013 has allowed people to get to know us better, and enabled us to generate funds through various events.  Examples include the raclette sale organized by the Geneva Rotary Club in Dardagny as part of the “Open Cellars” event; the lottery organized by the Holy Trinity Church; and the Geneva Marathon.   A friend of a young resident who died at Tara organized our participation in the marathon, finding people to sponsor participants running for Tara and to cheer the runners on!  Some 60 runners, of all ages, including 30 children, participated sporting a Maison de Tara t-shirt.  We were so moved to see this resident’s three young children running with their friends in memory of their mother, and to promote funding for La Maison de Tara.

In June, we were privileged to welcome Mr Frank Ostaseski, who has taught throughout the world for over 30 years on the subject of accompanying the dying.  He held a two-day seminar on the subject, “Increasing the quality of our presence and our compassion (?)”  This was a great opportunity for us all – volunteers, staff, and trustees alike – to come together.  A total of 85 people participated in this two-day training exercise, which greatly reinforced our sense of belonging.

Two activities are a priority for the Board of trustees and the Management committee – namely advertising Tara more widely, and identifying financial resources.  We have worked very hard in these areas throughout the year with positive results particularly in respect of funding.

While our rate of occupation increased significantly in 2013, there is still some way to go before the alternative we offer is systematically and explicitly proposed to those approaching the end of their days by their doctors, social care staff, and home-care personnel.  The need for this kind of solution is evident; however it is clear that many patients or their families are unaware that the Maison de Tara exists, despite our promotional work in health and medical circles.

We remain confident that in 2014, health professionals will come to know and better understand the advantages offered by La Maison de Tara, and will recommend it more frequently to their patients on the basis of the increasing number of positive accounts from residents and their families.

Anne-Marie Struijk   

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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© Fondation La Maison de Tara,

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

Tél : +41 (0)22 3488666
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