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Gaining Valuable Experience & Grandparents!

NatalieH

The Hallmark feature of the Schlegel Villages design is the Town Square and Main Street concept, which promotes social interaction and quality of life. Like any village, this is where the action happens; it’s where residents greet each other throughout the day, where celebrations take place and where people gather to discuss the happenings of Village Life. Our residents’ satisfaction is directly connected to the engagement of our teams, so the right team is critical when striving to offer the best service possible. We’ve implemented our own unique SUCCESS program to help us develop confident, exceptional team members.   Our programs are designed with much more than entertainment in mind. We provide a mix of opportunities for residents to meet physical, social, psychological and spiritual needs.

I work at the Village at St. Clair, a long-term care home under the Schlegel Villages name; here I am a student therapist in the Program for Active Living Centre. In my role, I do various activities such as working one-on-one with the neighbours (residents) helping them exercise with weights, walking or riding our recumbent bikes. To celebrate Canada’s 150th this summer, I implemented a “Ride Across Canada” program in the gym where residents were challenged to complete a cross country journey!  I logged and tracked their progress and we found that we had more visits to the gym, new visitors interested in participating and our regulars embraced this challenge and worked even harder!  I also conduct group exercise classes and help to develop events to motivate the neighbours to get active. For example, this summer we have added sport classes where the neighbours are able to participate in a different sport each week. As of now, we have done games such as golfing, volleyball, basketball, ladder ball and our recent success was a modified outdoor baseball game.

The most beneficial elements I have learned are patience and flexibility. Working in long term care is so rewarding since I see the improvement and success of individuals as they complete their exercises, but I have learned that this type of journey also requires patience. Not just my own patience, but being able to help others understand that sometimes improvement takes time is a necessity. Breaking down large goals into much smaller attainable units and marking each little success has helped the neighbours and myself become more patient when working towards big goals. Being able to be flexible is also extremely important in this position as there are constantly other activities happening, someone could be having an off day or it could just be they do not want to exercise at that particular moment. Having the ability to alter your schedule and be flexible is very important because no two days are ever the same.

This experience has helped me be prepared to meet all types of people and personalities. Between my co-workers at the village to interacting with the neighbours to even speaking with their families, learning to cooperate with multiple individuals to complete a task has become a regular part of my day. It has also given me the courage to approach people I normally would not. In my position at the Village at St. Clair, I am required to approach many people throughout the day. While I found this very hard at first, it is something I can now do with ease and I believe will transfer to my repertoire of skills I utilize in the real world. I am also more prepared for panicked situations since in long term care occasionally a person’s health can take a turn very quickly. This past summer I have experienced many different fast paced, panicked scenarios that I feel if an event were to happen in the real world I would be able to remain relatively level headed.

I would say that anyone looking for a similar work experience should advocate for their patience and flexibility. These really are two of the most important attributes required for this job as you go to the pace of the neighbour and often take detours based on their needs. I would recommend to not only those seeking a similar work experience, but also for those who have never tried working in long term care to give it a chance. I never thought I would have found myself enjoying it, let alone not wanting to leave. I have learned so much from my interactions with these amazing people!  I committed to learning new things to establish a meaningful connection with some of the residents so I can now say I knit, I know basic Italian and I came back to visit in between my work terms because I missed these folks so much!  The amazing people that you meet and the kinds of stories and experiences you have in a place like this are invaluable and something that I would recommend to everyone to try. 

Name:  Natalie Heeney
Program: Kinesiology/Human Kinetics Movement Science
Working at:  Schlegel Villages-the Villages of St. Clair
Role:  Student Therapist