Inspiration abounds at Walk with Me 2016

Erin Mills Lodge’s Liza Timoon offers reflection on Edmonton conference

By Kristian Partington

During any educational conference, it’s hoped that those in attendance will experience at least one moment of revelation that will inspire them upon their return to their respective careers and lives.  

Daniella Greenwood standing on stage addressing the crowd
Australia's Daniella Greenwood presents at the Walk with Me Culture
Change conference in Edmonton in mid-March.

As Liza Timoon reflects on her time in Edmonton during the Walk With Me Conference Mar. 10-11, she says there were several inspiring moments and conversations, but the first to come to mind goes back to something she heard during the panel discussion on the afternoon of March 10.

One of the panelists, Ken Heatherington, spoke about how his friendships changed after he was diagnosed with a chronic, degenerative disease. He spoke of feelings of abandonment, Liza recalls, as his friends slowly drew further away while his illness progressed.

“He was sort of in this broken place,” says Liza, “and someone from the audience asked him: ‘What was it that helped you move beyond that grief?’ He said that it was the new friendships that he made in his new long-term care home and the new opportunities that he had been involved with in that home that brought him to a better life and moved him from that place of grief into this thriving life.

“It just really hit me as an amazing reminder of why we’re here and how we should be so privileged that we get to go in every day to work and be a part of that healing process so that they can move from a place of brokenness into a life that’s thriving.”

Liza is the recreation director at the Village of Erin Mills Lodge in Mississauga, which recently became part of the Schlegel Villages family. The idea that people can thrive in a long-term care environment steps far outside of traditional views of aging, and she says her time at the conference reinforced the importance of building strong relationships among residents and team members.

She says it was a “privilege” to be invited to represent Erin Mills Lodge at the Walk with Me Conference, which brought together a wide range of stakeholders and presenters from across North America and as far away as Australia to focus on changing the culture of aging. Presented by the Schlegel UW Research Institute for Aging (RIA) and Alberta’s Capital Care foundation in partnership with several other organizations, including Schlegel Villages, this was the second Walk with Me event and Liza says it exceeded all of her expectations in terms of engagement, content and inspiration.

She’s now eager to encourage deeper discussions within her village around the idea of creating truly authentic relationships in the home, paraphrasing one of the keynote presenters, Daniella Greenwood from Australia’s Arcare Aged Care, when she considers these relationships between residents and care partners:

“We don’t have to overcomplicate this,” she says. “We’re just two human beings connecting, just two human beings doing life together and just keeping that at the centre of your focus through everything, just feeling that passion and inspiration when you go into work and that love for the residents, I’m really excited to share that.” 

Doing so will help push the institutional model of care farther into the past and allow care providers to fully embody a social model of living where older adults are able to thrive, no matter their circumstance.

For Liza Timoon, this is the essence of the culture change movement.