Why an open family presence policy matters: One woman’s story

January 19, 2017

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Why an open family presence policy matters: One woman’s story

When Allison Wells’ and her large extended family gathered to be with their hospitalized mother and grandmother, Dorothy Curtis, the facility’s open family presence policy meant they could experience every moment of the cherished woman’s last days together.

Binding three generations together: Allison Wells holds hands with her children, Logan (top) and Olivia, and her grandmother, Dorothy Curtis (bottom). Photo courtesy of Allison Wells

“This initially meant eating, laughing, chatting and reminiscing with Gram,” said Wells. “As time progressed, it meant allowing us to keep her comfortable by fluffing her pillows, moisturizing her lips and mouth and holding her hand through pain.”

And, in the final days, having an open family presence allowed the close-knit multi-generational group to gather together and bear witness to a beloved woman’s last moments.

“It meant having the great honour of being there in silence with her as she slipped unconscious.

“It allowed me to spend the night with Gram after I finished work, dozing next to her like I did as a child, wrapped in her love and strength.

“It meant my parents, uncles, aunts and cousins could get a few hours of sleep before continuing the day shifts with her as I returned home.

“It meant watching her life slip away but having the time and space to say proper goodbyes.

“It meant our family, my young children included, witnessing a good death and understanding that death is a part of life and can be beautiful and calm.”

In short, being there meant everything. The privilege of being present for the bitter sweet experience is something Allison and her family will carry with them always and forever be grateful for.

Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region continues to implement the provincial Open Family Presence policy, which the RQHR adopted in 2016. The policy enables patients to designate family members or other caregivers to have unrestricted access to them while they are hospitalized. 

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