Remembering the Most Generous of Caregivers

‘She was like the sunshine in a resident's day’

By Kristian Partington

Among the people who choose to spend their lives supporting others in a caregiver role rests a generous spirit and a deeply compassionate heart. For some, the instinct is so genuine that it seems no other role would suit – because of them, countless other lives are made all the richer.

The Village of Riverside Glen has been mourning the passing of just such a spirit since team member Michelle Goulbourne was lost to cancer in November 2016 at the age of 40.

Her team members and the residents she served remember a beautiful woman, inside and out, who served the village for more than 10 years. Some would say she always put the residents before the task, but others might say that for Michelle, there were no tasks, only opportunities to share space and time with people she genuinely loved. She was grateful for each opportunity and everyone she worked alongside recalls how she shared that gratitude with each resident she supported.

“She was so passionate,” says Tricia Bakelaar, who had the opportunity to work alongside Michelle when they were facilitators of the Schlegel Villages dementia education program, LIVING the Dementia Journey. The program is all about taking the time to focus on the needs of each person in each moment, and Tricia says Michelle was a natural facilitator because her entire being was always centred on this most basic of ideas. “She totally and completely put residents first and she always has,” Tricia says. “It’s just the way she was, it’s who she was.

“She always spoke about slowing down,” Tricia adds. “She took her time with each and every resident. It was so fundamental to who she was that she put other people first.”

Andrea Feys worked at Riverside Glen for 13 years, growing quite close to Michelle in the process. Now, as an educator training future caregivers, Andrea strives to inspire others with the philosophy Michelle inherently held close to heart.

“She was like the sunshine in a resident’s day,” Andrea says through tears, fondly thinking back to the countless times she’d stop and watch her friend interact with those she served.

“She would always take the time to thank residents for giving her the honour of letting her look after them. She was such a warm, down-to-earth, compassionate person.”

As an educator, Andrea says she has a high standard of expectation for her students, set largely because of the people she worked alongside at Riverside Glen, especially Michelle. “It may be a high level,” she says of these expectations, “but it can be achieved.”

Michelle proved it in every interaction she had with residents and team members, and it’s but one of many reasons she’s dearly missed by so many people.

“If every PSW could be somewhat like Michelle,” Andrea says, “the world would be a fantastic place.”