The cherry blossom: A lesson in end-of-life care

By Shawna Culleton

In Japanese culture, the cherry blossom, or sakura flower, serves as a reminder that life is short and we should live it well. Since November 2016, Deer Lodge Centre has offered a tranquil space called the Sakura Suite to residents from multi-bed rooms facing end-of-life care. The suite is intended to provide more privacy and dignity for clients and their families or loved ones. It has a bedroom with en suite bathroom, a kitchen, dining table and chairs, and seating area for relaxing.

Deer Lodge Centre’s chief nursing officer, Shannon Guerreiro, says all staff who work in the Sakura Suite have specifically requested the assignment and have undergone special training in end-of-life care.

“It’s not so much the room as the attitude and the philosophy around the room that’s helped us change how we approach end-of-life care,” explains Guerreiro. “Death is a part of life. We want to make it as comfort-able as possible for patients and their families.”

The decision to access the Sakura Suite is up to the client, their family, and caregivers.

Earlier this year, Deer Lodge launched the Cherry Blossom program throughout the centre. The pro-gram has already been implemented in other WRHA facilities. The cherry blossom symbol affixed to a door panel indicates that death is imminent, and reminds staff, visitors, and other clients to refrain from making loud noise.

Deer Lodge Centre has also begun holding educa-tional receptions for new residents and their families to better prepare and empower them to understand their care options.