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A compassionate Ottawa supports and empowers individuals, their families and their communities throughout life to live well and to die and grieve well.

Written by Colleen Mayo-Pankhurst and Hayley Miloff

Nothing is the same; yet the important things remain.

Now that we have all caught our breath and are beginning to adjust to a ‘new normal’, the HELP Ottawa team wants to reassure you that we are proceeding with the compassionate community research project having made all of the necessary modifications due to the pandemic.

Our staff are working diligently from home, and are following the protocols of the public health authorities. We are relying on the teleconferencing platform, Zoom, to conduct our team meetings, and have been working hard to move our research online. Consent Forms and Questionnaires that would have been done in hard copy have been moved to a computer-based. Interviews that would have been done in person are being done by phone. We are grateful to have received the speedy approval of the Research Ethics Board to make these required changes. We continue to be closely engaged with our four research sites and site leads, and our site Advisory Councils will resume meetings via Zoom next week. We have all learned to be flexible and think creatively to meet the needs of the moment.

Heather McGrath and Emily Davison at Orleans United Church before COVID-19
Heather McGrath and Emily Davison at Orleans United Church before COVID-19

We are delighted to share that, despite these major shifts under foot, we have now completed a first wave of 30 interviews across our four research sites. We have engaged a wide variety of participants, from Community Health Centre staff to Faith Community parishioners. As we collect our data, we are beginning the exciting process of analyzing and thematically coding the contents to search for key findings.

Hayley Miloff, Alexa Keeshan, and Colleen Mayo-Pankhurst at CCBC before COVID-19
Hayley Miloff, Alexa Keeshan, and Colleen Mayo-Pankhurst at CCBC before COVID-19

The value of the Healthy End of Life Project is brought into sharper focus as we contemplate the risks facing those who are immunocompromised, chronically ill, dependent, dying, and grieving. The current situation requires all of us to think about how we can connect with and support one another during this challenging time. We are heartened by the outpouring of community engagement on Facebook groups like Caremongering Ott and the literal lengths people will go to keep each other safe. We are cheered to hear Prime Minister Trudeau encourage everyone to pick up the phone and call someone in need, and to ask for help when we need it ourselves. We cannot help but wonder how this experience will reshape the world, deeper our insight, and help us emerge with a stronger sense of our interdependence.

Please keep the HELP Ottawa Team in mind as we continue to study how to build strong communities, where help-seeking, help-offering, and help-receiving is destigmatized, especially for the most vulnerable among us. We would also invite you to be mindful of your needs during this stressful time as we learn to navigate this unfamiliar terrain together.

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