As a young girl, I remember drawing in my sketch book surrounded by the scent of the wild roses in our garden. That scent always provided me with wonderful memories of summers past. Years later, I learned that wild roses are considered a symbol of protection, adoration, and love.
Not long ago, I entered the room of one of our clients and noticed a soft bristled hairbrush, and a bottle of wild rose body lotion on her side table. It was dark outside with the only quiet noise coming from her oxygen machine. The blinds were still open, and the sun had not yet set. Since she appeared to be sleeping, I tiptoed past to close the blinds so she could rest more easily.
“Hello” she said in a soft voice.
“Hi, I’m Courtney,” I quietly replied. “You looked like you were sleeping so I wanted to close the blinds a little, is that okay with you?” I asked.
She signaled me to come closer and gently whispered, “It’s nice to meet you.”
“I see you are getting settled in here,” I said. She looked around the room and nodded yes.
I couldn’t help but think of her wild rose body lotion and the memories that scent always brought me. I asked if I could smell it. She nodded yes and I opened the bottle to inhale the scent. “Oh, it smells heavenly and reminds me of the wild rose bushes we had when I was growing up,” I said.
She started fidgeting with her oxygen nasal prongs and I noticed her hands appeared dry. I offered to rub some lotion onto her hands and when I asked if she might like me to sit with her a while she agreed. As we quietly chatted, I trimmed and filed her nails, gently washed her hands, and applied the wild rose lotion on them. She smiled as we each shared a little bit about ourselves and got to know each other. Soon afterwards, she fell asleep.
Very early the next morning, she woke up and wanted some bedside company. A nurse and I each pulled up a chair and I asked if I could brush her hair while we sat in the glow of the table lamp quietly together. She agreed.
Her hair was so soft, long, thick and silver. She placed her hand over my hand. Her hand still carried the scent of the wild rose lotion and she wondered if she could have some on her legs. The nurse gave her a gentle body massage as we both ensured this wonderful lady had our full attention.
Although we only knew each other for two days before she passed, her kind and gentle soul made a lasting imprint on our care team. We grew to adore her as she came to trust us.
Sometimes, as professional caregivers, we only have days or hours to provide comfort and honour the wishes of those in our care. We spend time to get to know our clients, paying close attention to their likes, dislikes, and preferences. Following their lead is an essential part of how we help our clients to live and die their way.
For us, it starts simply with: “What would you like us to know about you so we can provide the very best care for you?” Asking this question makes an incredible difference for those in our care and for their loved ones. When we take notice of the little things that are important to them and approach each moment as an investment in their journey, that loving energy is felt.
This is the essence of palliative care. Although a lot of what we do is provide comfort, safety, and care for each person as an individual while respecting and honouring their wishes, we know that the simple things we do are equally important and have a positive impact. They make a difference in the lives of those in our care and in our lives, too.
Although it was brief, spending time with this wonderful woman reminded me how we help people find comfort in simple things. She loved all things natural and through the perfume of the wild roses she loved so much, I know our team helped her to live out her last days as she wanted to.
There is so much to be gained when we take the time to stop and smell the roses.