Early on the second day of the Schlegel Villages 2023 Operational Planning retreat in Niagara Falls, a special panel of residents and a team member take their place alongside podcast hosts Evelyn Brindle and Kathy Buckworth. This unique panel comes together just as #Elderwisdom: Stories from the Green Bench reaches a milestone of 100,000 downloads – the perfect time for a live podcast recording. The audience of 500 people gathered in the convention centre are eager to hear the discussion about what it means to provide high-quality care in a senior’s living environment.
“We are diving into what makes exceptional care, how people and relationships make an impact, and what people and care do for the quality of long-term care and retirement living at Schlegel Villages,” Kathy explains as she sets the stage. As co-host and a resident at the Village of Erin Meadows with her husband, Evelyn is the first to weigh in before welcoming the first guest, Ann Baxter, who lives in the Egerton Neighbourhood at The Village of Wentworth Heights.
“I visited a number of retirement homes before we moved into Erin Meadows,” Evelyn explains. “We found that the majority of them had a very lovely decorated main floor, but there were no people.”
“Whenever I'm in Erin Meadows, whether walking through the main street or in the elevator, I'm always greeted with a smile and often by name from many of the residents and the staff,” she continues. “People are everywhere and they're enjoying the variety of programs and activities that are available.”
Indeed, it is in relationships that the foundation of quality care is formed, and Ann’s relationships with the team members at Wentworth Heights are strong enough that she jokes about wanting to adopt them. Their gentleness and compassion, even when offering intimate supports, is unwavering.
“One thing that really struck me, talking to a couple of the helpers where I live, each one individually said they considered their time, they didn't say job, they said their time there is a vocation,” Anne shares. “I thought, that's absolutely beautiful. It isn't a job or a task, but it is a vocation.”
Anne is followed by Riverside Glen resident Barb Merkley and Tamara White, who works with the People Team at the Schlegel Villages Support Office. Theirs is a story of connectedness that illustrates how people of any age can find true friendship, just as they did while travelling to Pittsburg for a conference with several other Schlegel ambassadors. Barb also shares the story of how she arrived at Riverside Glen for a short stay following a medical procedure; she was instantly made to feel comfortable, so she chose to make her home there. Like Ann, Barb says the team is what made that sense of comfort so strong, and the third podcast guest, Royal Hamel, zeroed in in that same theme in his remarks.
Royal was struck with sudden illness that robbed him of his mobility and he urgently needed the support of a long-term care setting. He says he was blessed when he was placed at The Village of Winston Park. Royal’s insights are profound, and he speaks of the importance of residents acknowledging the team members when they see or feel those exceptional care moments.
He admits to being nervous when he first moved to the Village, because he wasn’t sure what the care would be like. Not long after arriving, however, he saw what compassion looks like in the interactions of a young personal support worker with a fellow resident. He later tracked the team member down to share his thoughts with her.
“She is a person who not only gives effective care,” Royal explains, recounting that conversation, “she gives affective care and she reaches out with compassion just in a natural way.” When he shared his insights with the young PSW, she teared up with gratitude.
As he wraps up the discussion on exceptional care in this live podcast recording, he offers some advice to the leaders in the room about what to look for in new team members.
"I think when people are hiring a person,” he says, “they should deliberately and specifically look for compassion.”
True compassion and genuine, meaningful connection are the key ingredients for exceptional care, and who better than the residents themselves to offer such valuable insights. Subscribe and listen to this episode and more on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music and wherever you listen to podcasts.