joie de vivre inspired administrator’s re-valuation of long
Seeing her friend Bill walk into the nursing home dining room in the
summer of 2002 after recovering from multiple injuries was more than
a triumphant moment for administrator Denise Bedard.
Bill, with tears streaming down his face and everyone
in the room applauding, hadn’t walked in months. The moment
became symbolic for Bedard, who had helped Bill, along with a physiotherapist,
to regain his ability to walk.
"With a little effort and genuine care, staff
could dramatically impact on the quality of life of their residents
and in doing so also impact on their own lives in a positive and
rewarding way," says Bedard.
Bedard’s epiphany was this: long term care,
which was rightly moving to more person-centred orientation, could
move further beyond to fully explore and celebrate the uniqueness
of each individual and their respective histories. A necessary addendum
to this was changing the modes of care provision to make interactions
between staff and residents more meaningful.
Bedard, in memory of Bill, has developed a teaching
initiative and thesis entitled “The Enrichment of Personhood
in a Legacy Teaching Culture (formerly known as Long Term Care).”
The ethic of efficiency in care provision, argues
Bedard, still impedes the progress of person-centred care and the
development of the kinds of relationships (like the one she shared
with Bill) that can be life-affirming and life-altering.
“Our present medical model of care pulls
for efficiency, and does not convey to staff that personhood or
even psychosocial care is part of one’s job,” she writes.
It’s also understandable, she adds, that
due to the tremendous emotional stress caregivers face that they
consciously or unconsciously desensitize themselves (to varying
degrees). One of the objectives of the initiative, it follows, is
to change care provision in social terms.
“[T]his teaching model is being created
in order to guide and create awareness to practitioners in long
term care to approach their charges with compassion, personhood,
and to address the relationship between residents, family members,
and their caregivers,” writes Bedard.
This is done, says Bedard, through concerted community
The initiative, currently in start-up phase at
Meadow Park London, involves comprehensive community engagement.
Focus groups and surveys with residents and staff within the home
and with families externally have begun, offering insight and feedback
into specific issues in care provision at Meadow Park.
The results will then be distributed to other
individuals working in long term care. This next dialogue will help
to produce a teaching model, says Bedard. Eventually, her hope is
to find funding to implement the vision of “legacy teaching
“Building legacies in a person-centred culture
focuses on the uniqueness of each person,” says Bedard. “
“Caregivers need to be respectful of what
seniors have accomplished, compassionate towards what they have
endured and awestruck by their strength and capacity to adapt. A
good friend once said to me, ‘If you don’t know me,
you cannot care for me. A person without a past is incomplete.’”