Thursday August 18, 2016, Maneesha facilitated a beautiful Evening on Death in Leiden, The Netherlands. The next day I showed her the old city and the hospice I work for called ‘Xenia, a home with a heart’. She was happily surprised and asked me to write a few lines for this newsletter. Even though there is so much to write about Xenia, I will share some first impressions a visitor might likely have when entering the hospice.
Xenia opened its doors in 2014 and offers space for six young adults in the age between 16 and 40 who suffer from a life-threatening disease. We call them ‘guests.’ In The Netherlands there are hospices for children and hospices for elderly. Xenia is the only hospice for the former. The staff feel that in the end-of-life care each age group requires its own environment, one in which a guest can fully relax and feel at home.
The beautiful, modern building is in the middle of the old city of Leiden, with cafés around the corner. It has a very light and free atmosphere. Artists have been involved in decorating the home and just a few weeks ago Xenia won first prize for excellent healthcare-architecture. Striking features of Xenia are the spaciousness of the rooms and the artistic ‘wellness bathroom’ as well as the lounge area.
What is not seen but felt when you enter Xenia is the underlying culture. The guiding principle is that almost everything should be possible, as long as other guests aren’t disturbed by it. Some examples to illustrate this: if friends or family want to stay over they can sleep in the same room as the guest or in a separate guestroom. If a guest wants to bring his or her pet, that’s perfectly fine. We have had rabbits and dogs staying over with their beloved dying owners. We even had a marriage: two weeks before a young guest died she got married in the lounge upstairs. Young people love to listen to music, to drink alcohol and sometimes smoke a joint: all of these activities are possible after consultation with the staff. Once in a while the kitchen turns into a disco. And when it’s time to retreat into silence, the guests can withdraw into their own spacious and light rooms.
Pictures say a lot more than words so please visit the website for more impressions. And whenever you are in Leiden, feel free to visit Xenia – the house is open – but do call first!