What independence can look like

‘We work from the neighbour up,’ says Renee Ganley

By Kristian Partington

Renee Ganley waited nearly two years to move into the Village of Aspen Lake. She’d been living at a chronic care home, but knew without question that the Windsor village was where she wanted to be. She’s been there for two years now and has never looked back. 

Resident Renee holding a basket of crafts
Renee at the Village of Aspen Lake.

She’s as independent as can be, with the support of the team around her, and she’s always eager to contribute to village life. She’s an active member of the residents’ council as the vice-president, for example, and she’s looking to collect family recipes from residents and team members for a cookbook. She’s also happy to discuss the things she likes about the village and areas she think could be improved upon.

So what makes Renee feel so comfortable at the village? “The fact that I am able to do what I’m able to do,” she says. “I feel respected and I’m not looked down to. I’m able to say, ‘guys, I’m taking off for a couple of hours, I’ll be back.”

Her impressions of other long-term care homes don’t foster that sense of independence, she says, noting that other places tend to operate from a “top-down” perspective, where managers and administrators call the shots.

“We work from the neighbour up,” she says.

Looking back to when she first moved in, Renee admits she had her reservations and doubts. She was walking in blind, she says, so to find out that the village was what she’d hoped it would be and more has been a blessing. That’s why she’s eager to contribute where she can, and because she is relatively young compared to many of her neighbours, Renee likes to think of herself as a conduit between neighbours and team members.

One way she hopes to expand on that role is to communicate directly with team members in each neighbourhood through the team huddles, discussing the concepts of empathy and compassion. “This is a human business,” says Renee, and it comes with the many challenges of different personalities converging in one place. The “empathy tour,” as she calls it, can be a reminder for both team members and residents to place themselves in each other’s shoes once in a while. 

Renee encourages people to remember that life can be lived fully in a long-term care setting – all that’s needed is a team that focuses on residents’ strengths and abilities and seeks to foster as much independence as possible.