Hope Healing Garden Program – Igniting Hope at the End of Life

Categories: Care, Community Engagement, Featured, and People & Places.

Medical resources are relatively inadequate in the rural areas. Based on this fact, Lanyu1 Home Care Association cooperates with Yabosokanen Home Care Institution to build up the Hope Healing Garden. The purpose is to provide holistic, physical, emotional, and spiritual home-community based healthcare services to the people of Lanyu with respect, and to integrate the culture and history of Lanyu and Tao2.

Lanyu is an outlying island in Taitung County, located in the southeast of Taiwan. The aboriginal Tao people believe that illness and death are caused by evil spirits and are considered ominous; death is considered a taboo in the Tao community. In the tribe, the seriously ill patients will choose to live apart from their children so as not to become their burden. Therefore, patients with major illnesses are not only dealing with physical discomfort, but also, they need to endure psychological and spiritual emptiness. Although the families are unwilling to be apart from the patients, they are bound by the tradition and face the pressure of not becoming the talk of the town. Besides living separately from the patient, they must discard of all the patient’s possessions and cannot even mention the patient’s name after the patient has passed away.

Therefore, it is crucial to create a space like Hope Healing Garden in the sea-view landscape of Lanyu for the terminal patients and their families to feel safe and comfortable. Such a dedicated place is a necessity to provide patients with rich and diverse mind and spirit integrated psychotherapy, such as horticultural therapy, aromatherapy, and reflexology.

The statistics provided by the Lanyu Household Registration Office shows that in December 2020, 20% of the Lanyu population is above 55 years old. This data far exceeds the definition of the aging country (7%) as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO). It reveals a severe issue of an aging population in Lanyu. And it is a challenge to apply the long-term health care policy to the local people because the tradition binds the social value in Lanyu. For example, how the Tao people think of soul and disease; boundaries between male and female (i.e., healthcare providers can’t provide services to patients with a different gender); provision of inheritance (i.e., even a stranger who assists the funeral will gain part of the property from the family); and how they see modern medicine and science. To reach a balance between long-term health care, local culture, and proper care of disease, developing local innovative long-term health care services is both urgent and important. Yabosokanen Home Care has been established for more than three years thus far. The number of cases they provide care to has gradually increased, and the institution can offer more services than before. To provide holistic care includes a four-part approach that includes the whole person, whole journey, whole family, and whole community. The Hope Healing Garden Program is expected to provide various home-community-based care to the patients, and  covers seven themes in separate locations, including the Healing Garden, Comfort Corner, Love-delivery Shop, Dream Workshop, Mind Harbor, Culture Station, and Work Exchange. The purpose is to provide comprehensive and diverse health care to satisfy the patients’ needs of physical, physiological, and spiritual aspects.

In addition to the medical team, there are pastors who can pray for patients, comforting, listening, and accompanying them. Yabosokanen Home Care allows the patients to reconstruct their souls and dignity. Professional members will join from different places, such as physicians, nurses, psychologists, aromatherapists, art therapists, and etc.

Seeing life as chapters of a book regarding birth, old age, sickness, and death, perhaps Hope Healing Garden is a way to write the resolution among the conflicts between traditional cultural beliefs and modern medical science, while fostering the growth of physical and mental strength. We hope and believe that this new way will bring dignity to terminal patients in Lanyu throughout their final stage of life.

[1] Lanyu: a volcanic island off the southeastern coast of Taiwan, also called “Orchid Island”.

[2] Tao: the indigenous people who live on Lanyu.

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This information was provided by Hospice Foundation Taiwan

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