Meaningful Connections by the Strings of a Guitar


The day that Hamilton Continuing Care welcomed a new resident named Ray into the community, he wasn’t in the best of spirits. Residents moving into long-term care are facing a difficult transition in life, so his feelings were natural and not entirely uncommon.

Ray brought with him a guitar, however, so it was a safe bet to think that music might be a way to connect with him and help him grow more at ease in his new home. Tracy Decker, a personal support worker with more than 30 years’ worth of experience, saw this opportunity right away and general manager Kelly Younger stumbled upon an interaction between them on one of Ray’s first mornings in the village. She says it was a powerful reminder of the importance of building genuine relationships. 

Tracy and Ray connected easily at Hamilton Continuing Care as soon as a guitar came out.
Tracy and Ray connected easily as soon as a guitar came out.

They were in the dining area just before breakfast was served and Tracy had Ray’s guitar in her hands, strumming away while she sang with him. The frustration he’d expressed earlier had naturally given way to a calm sense of contentment, and the kindness of a man who grew up on the laid back East Coast of Canada emerged. They could joke around with each other, and talk of guitar chords and songs they love.

“This wasn’t in the care plan,” Kelly says. “It just happened naturally. It gives me chills just thinking about it.”

Schlegel Villages has invested a lot into team member development and education; training its people to value the power of connectivity among caregivers and the residents they serve. As one of the newest members of the Schlegel Villages family, however, Kelly points out that Hamilton Continuing Care hasn’t been exposed to the same number of opportunities, yet its team members have an inherent understanding of the importance of relationship building.   

Tracy and Ray had an instant connection when she played the guitar for him, and later that day they could be found sitting together again with the guitar in hand. Ray says he doesn’t play too often anymore, as it hurts his fingers, but he’s happy to talk about growing up in Saint John, New Brunswick, where he learned to play at a young age.

Music was always in his house and by the time he was in his teens he was playing in a band. Music has remained a part of his life ever since.

“As long as you play music and listen to music, you’ll never be alone,” Tracy says, and Ray agrees. The connection they now have thanks to a guitar and a song binds them together, and seems to give Ray a little of the comfort he struggled to find when he first moved in. Connections can happen in moments, and it’s inspiring to see them when they happen as naturally as this one did one morning in Hamilton, just before breakfast was served.