What are the True Benefits of Signature Programs at Schlegel Villages?

In-depth evaluations underway will help determine value and impact

By Kristian Partington

Within Schlegel Villages there are six core “signature programs” offered to residents and families as a means of enhancing life in one way or another. Where the Program for Active Living (PAL) is more focused on the physical needs of residents by helping them retain or regain strength and mobility, other programs, such as the Java Music Club or Music and Memory, are more tapped into the emotional well being of residents.

These programs, along with Living ChoicesWisdom of the Elder and LIVING the Dementia Journey represent both a significant investment and a great source of pride for team members, mostly because anecdotally there are many stories of positive outcomes.

But so far, this is all just conjecture. It’s certainly possible to see the smile on the face of a person living with dementia when their favourite music flows through the earbuds of their iPod, and a resident can tell you they feel stronger since they began working closely with their PAL team of exercise therapists and kinesiologists, but what is the measurable impact and the true benefit of these programs?

To answer this question, Schlegel Villages will be working closely with Darly Dash, an evaluation project officer with the Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging who specializes in deep analysis of programs in the public health system. 

Christy Parsons, vice-president of support office services with Schlegel Villages, says the decision was made to invest in intense evaluation because both quantitative and qualitative evidence can inform the team of the programs’ overall effect in the lives of those who live, work and visit the villages.

“An ideal outcome,” says Christy, “would consist of findings to help us spread the best practices of the signature programs across the entire organization at the neighbourhood level. We hope to gather knowledge on how the signature programs are inter-related and impact on one another through direct connections.”

Darly says this is the most powerful advantage of strong program evaluation. It should never be simply about ticking off boxes on a checklist, but instead should be used as a tool to help organizations adjust their approach to service based on the timely, accurate reactions of those most directly affected.

“These are real programs that are customer facing,” Darly says, and “we’re trying to make a benefit for actual people.” She adds that sitting at a computer doing policy analysis is not what she envisions. She intends to be immersed as deeply as possible in the programs, working closely with an advisory group of people who are intimately connected to each program to determine how to gather the most beneficial information possible.

The first stage of her work, which began in early May, involves a broad examination of each program in order to determine which of the six are “in-depth evaluation ready.” Stage 2 will be more intensive, zeroing in on one or two programs for deep analysis.

Darly says she looks forward to working alongside people who harbour a sincere desire to harness the best of these programs for the benefit of those they serve, and she intends to provide as much information as possible to help them achieve their goals.