5Mins & 5Qs with Anne-Marie Struijk, Founder of hospice”La Maison de Tara”

Snuggled in Chêne-Bougeries, La Maison de Tara offers an alternative to hospitalisation for people nearing the end of life who are unable to stay at home but wish to spend their final days in a non-medicalised atmosphere surrounded by warmth, care and tenderness…. a home from home. They offer to any person, young or old, who is seriously ill, a place to stay and be cared for in a family atmosphere. La Maison de Tara commits to bring each resident the same quality of care that a family can give.

I am very proud to say that I am part of the volunteer family at La Maison de Tara. I was welcomed and trusted to be part of the family from the very beginning. People say to me: “It must be so depressing to work there”. They could not be more wrong. The atmosphere as well as the people are caring, loving and sunny.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, Anne Marie?

With the help and support of others, I spent 10 years of travel and research to create the best possible model for a hospice as a community care facility that would duplicate the conditions of a family home. It is a time of great intensity and intimacy, very precious to those involved even if, obviously, there is suffering for all. From my own personal story, I wanted to set up a space where people could die with a community and with love and care.

Why did you set up Maison de Tara?

I was lucky to be able to be present in the last moments of two of my grandparents and both of my parents. The opportunity to care for a loved one often helps to lessen the emotional suffering caused by serious illness. However, increasingly in our society, some people do not have a family or social network that is sufficiently wide to offer this possibility. At MDT there is a 24-hour presence of day and night staff and well-trained volunteers to ensure the comfort and security of patients. Medical and other health professionals who have been looking after patients at home can continue this care at La Maison de Tara.

“What matters most is how we are more than what we say or do.”

What model did you use to set up the MDT?

The model for the Foundation of the La Maison de Tara is derived from the Low care hospices in the Netherlands. Like La Maison de Tara, most of these hospices are small scale in order to conserve a family-type atmosphere. This seemed the most suitable for our present circumstances, although other very successful hospice models exist. La Maison de Tara could become a reproducible model in other cities. 

What is the core philosophy behind MDT?

The philosophy of La Maison de Tara can be summarised in the eloquent words of Dame Cecily Saunders, UK founder of the hospice movement and modern palliative care:

“You matter because you are you, and you matter to the end of your life.

This word accompaniment seems so fundamental to what you do. Can you tell us a bit more?

Accompaniment means to be accepted, just as we are, with our bad moods, our fears, our anger but also with our joy, our love, our memories, the whole of our humanity. There is a need to be reconnected to our personal resources thanks to the presence, mindful listening, humour and serenity of carers.

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