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Supporting Saskatchewan families through the loss of a child

A family is never prepared for the death of a child. Still, for some Saskatchewan families, this is a reality. While technological advances in children’s health have greatly improved medical care and outcomes, children continue to face life-threatening or terminal conditions.

To help families through the unimaginable grief of losing a child, the Creating Lasting Legacies program was established in Regina in 2017 with $4,000 in funding from Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital Foundation. The program is based out of Regina General Hospital. It incorporates different needs from the Pediatric Inpatient Unit, the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and the Pediatric Homecare program.

Wendy Breit

Wendy Breit, a Child Life Specialist at Regina General Hospital, said the idea for the program came after noticing a lack of resources to initiate end-of-life discussions.

“Creating Lasting Legacies program is designed to provide support for families caring for a child with a life-threatening condition or who has entered into the palliative process. It has resources to help guide them through this most difficult and stressful time of care,” Breit said. “If given a choice, families would choose a cure; however, when a cure is unlikely or not possible, we have an obligation as health care professionals to prepare them as best as we possibly can.”

The program provides resources for families and health care workers, including a book loan library with reading materials in the area of preparing for expected death and grief support. The program also helps families create unique mementoes to cherish after a child passes, including hand and footprint embossing, keepsake ornaments, making hugs wraps, impression pendants and lip print keepsakes.

Making hugs is one of the activities available through the Creating Lasting Legacies program.

Legacy building is used in pediatric palliative care as a tool to help health care providers assist families with a child who is ill in creating and maintaining memories. Early intervention allows families to become part of the process, so memories, not only objects are made as part of legacy building.

This spring, the Foundation granted an additional $6,000 in funding for the continued growth and development of Creating Lasting Legacies.

“Many children from the southern half the province will undoubtedly use Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital. However, end of life care will also happen at home or close to home. We’ll continue to grow and improve what we have to offer our palliative families to help them through the grieving process,” Breit said.

The book loan library provides resources to help families with the grieving process.

The new funding will go towards a special comfort cart for families with a child in palliative care to use at the bedside, which will have grief resources, snacks and a coffee machine. The grant will also replenish materials for families to create mementoes, as well as to expand reading materials including the addition of literature in different languages such as Arabic, Punjab and Tagalog, to better accommodate the diverse community.

“Nothing could be more devastating than the loss of a child. For Saskatchewan families facing the difficult palliative care process, we hope this program helps them find a sense of comfort, share special moments and create cherished memories together,” said Brynn Boback-Lane, President and CEO of Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital Foundation. “This legacy building program aligns with one of our Foundation’s pillar priorities of family-centred care, an approach that is truly invaluable when families are faced with the unimaginable. We thank our generous donors for seeing the significance of such an important program that supports families when they need it most.”

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