A Small Window into a Person’s Life with Top-10 Lists

New initiative helps team members connect with residents who are living with dementia

With a short glance upon the wall in Faith Brender’s room in Emma’s neighbourhood in the Village of Arbour Trails, one learns so much about her. She was a social worker and a nurse who travelled the globe extensively, living in several Canadian and U.S. cities, while visiting faraway lands throughout Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

She’s a mother of two children; she loves books and dogs, pop music and jazz, and Judaism is the faith that guides her.   

    Top-10 Lists in Emma's neighbourhood are helping
team members discover new ways to create
deeper connections with residents.

Like her fellow residents in Emma’s, Faith also lives with the changing perceptions of the mind that come with a dementia diagnosis. This is why the team recently began compiling a Top-10 Things About Me list that hangs upon the walls of the residents who make their home there. Faith’s was one of the earlier lists completed and the hope is that every resident will one day have one.

There are times when someone living with dementia may not understand or recall where they are and the team members they rely upon for support may seem frighteningly unfamiliar. Framed and hung upon the wall in a resident’s room, the list gives team members a window into the lives of those they serve, helping break down that barrier of unfamiliarity. In any such list, two people are likely to find at least one commonality, and this can open the door to conversation and connection that might otherwise be difficult to engage in.

The lists, says Marianne Fitzgerald, a dietary team member who spends most of her time in Emma’s servery, “allows you to enter into their world and find out who they were and what was important in their life. It really does allow you to get to know the residents and it does make an incredible impact.”

Marianne says the effort it takes to speak with the residents and families in order to make a comprehensive list is worth every effort because the possibility of enhancing relationships is instantly improved.

“If we incorporate this into the entry package for residents it will just become part of the admission process,” she says, noting the questions that help round out such a list are as important as any related to a care plan.

Recreation team member Jessica Rawlings spends the bulk of her time in Emma’s neighbourhood and helped lead the effort to create the individual Top-10 lists. She says strong relationships are the key to positive interactions with residents and she’s happy to see that the marketing team, which plays such an important role in welcoming new residents, is helping to begin the list creation. She reiterates that while the actual care needs of a person are obviously of major importance, knowing some of a resident’s history and the passions that fuelled their joy in life can make a world of difference in connecting well beyond basic care.

This simple knowledge can be the base of more meaningful interactions every day, and the Top-10 concept is now being trialled in two Villages as part of the on-going development of the Living In My Today Dementia Program for Schlegel Villages as a whole. This tool has intentionally been created to reflect the organization’s commitment to a relational model of support for people living with dementia.