I moved to Toronto in 2009 in order to help my elderly parents in their complex health situation. In the first year, while I was networking and trying to find/create a job in my particular health care speciality, I had the opportunity to explore the Greater Toronto Area and get to know our sisters in Canada.
Toronto, I was told, is the most diverse city in the world and I can attest to this. It is amazing how the many different cultures live and work together in relative harmony, each one respecting the other’s difference, not least in the command and use of the English language. The equality and tolerance here, and the effort of everyone to live with ‘difference’ is educative and most impressive, and not something I have experienced to the same extent elsewhere.
In my first year here, while job-seeking, I also had to opportunity to write and publish a book, Integrating Clinical Aromatherapy in Specialist Palliative Care
. This evidence-based guide consolidated my 10 years’ work at St. Gemma’s Hospice in Leeds, England and hopefully is now useful to others in the field. The process of self-publishing was interesting!
Since my second year in Toronto I have been working as Complementary Therapy Consultant in the Palliative Care Unit of Mackenzie Richmond Hill Hospital and Hill House Hospice. I work with a small team of volunteer complementary therapists to provide massage/aromatherapy, Reiki, Therapeutic TouchTM and psycho-spiritual support to patients and their families. The complementary therapy programme (or ‘service’ as it is known in U.K. health care) is integrated in the multidisciplinary team and, I believe, is the first of its kind in Ontario, if not Canada. Aromatherapy is the most widely provided complementary therapy in U.K. palliative care but is unknown in Canadian palliative care. It is exciting, albeit challenging, to be part of introducing, developing and sustaining something new. Our article about the programme was accepted for publication by the Journal of Palliative Medicine in June 2013 – that process was interesting as well!
As my parents’ part-time caregiver I am also learning to negotiate the health care system from ‘the other side of the fence’, so to speak. Not only is this sobering but, I hope, making me a better and more compassionate health care professional. I would say that being an advocate, educating oneself constantly about what’s available and planning ahead are the three most important elements when caring for the elderly, in this case my parents.
On 8th July 2013 our Canadian and U.S. Provinces merged to become the United States-Canada Province. It was a privilege and deeply moving to have been part of and witnessed the discernment process of our Canadian sisters and the openness of our American sisters. Such is the richness of being a member of an international congregation that I am, for now, able to live out my commitment in the United States-Canada Province, for whose support I am grateful. I am particularly thankful for the prayer and support of my own Province of England and Wales.