True change in our societal perspective on aging will only be realized if knowledge is shared and if the individual stories of strength and success are widely told. It’s for this reason that the Schlegel-University of Waterloo Research Institute for Aging (RIA) is committed to connecting a Canada-wide network of change agents.
In May, the Schlegel Centre for Learning, Research and Innovation in Long-Term Care (Schlegel CLRI) and the RIA hosted a unique Culture Change Exchange knowledge-sharing event. It was a direct response to a survey of Ontario long-term care sector stakeholders who resoundingly said they were eager for more information on the subject. Offered in-person at the Schlegel Centre of Excellence for Innovation in Aging and online for participants unable to travel to Waterloo, Ontario, the Culture Change Exchange was not intended as a solution to questions of how to achieve definitive results. Instead, it was designed as a means of sharing examples of what is working for some organizations and what has been less successful.
Sarah Price, the director of service for Calgary-based seniors housing provider Silvera for Seniors, found herself in Waterloo on Day 1 of the two-day event. She’d heard that Schlegel Villages and the RIA are together on the leading edge of support for seniors in Canada and she was eager to be part of any type of knowledge exchange. In fact, some of her leadership team had attended a session about Schlegel Villages at the 2016 Walk With Me conference in Edmonton, Alberta, hosted by the RIA, and “they came back raving,” Sarah says. “They were so excited saying ‘this is what we have to do and these are our next steps.’ ”
Sarah happened to be in Ontario for other business and was able to attend Day 1 of the Culture Change Exchange. “It’s a little overwhelming,” she says at the close of the day that saw more than 20 presenters at the podium. “But it’s also exciting”, she adds, “to think about the possibilities.” She looks around the room as the attendees thin out, and points to the large picture on the wall of an artist’s rendering of the Centre of Excellence. She’s standing in the RIA arm of this community with the 192-bed long-term care Village at University Gates next door, but in the coming years the community will expand to include retirement neighbourhoods and she’s inspired by this image.
“The whole campus approach, that’s sort of been our vision,” Sarah says, placing her mind back in Alberta where her community is based. “We want to be able to get to that point where we have multiple layers of support and care provided with partners . . . and the idea of getting a research focus in behind it is really intriguing to me.”
She also says that developing a strategy to better support the people in her communities who are living with dementia is a priority. Her time at the Culture Change Exchange reminded her that there are examples of best practices that can be drawn upon to make such improvements.
“There are so many things you can pull out of today,” she says. “Really, you have to start somewhere and the steps they’ve given us, I want to go back and really be the champion for that.”
Whether it was the afternoon discussion about reimagining the way leisure and recreation activities are offered or the topic of collaborative teams offering more personalized support for residents, attendees were engaged, curious and eager to get started in their own homes.
The audience was continually reminded, however, that the foundation for change must be strong and the commitment broad in order for any meaningful progress to occur.
“You come to these conferences and you’re energized to go back and make these changes right away,” says Melissa Khedar, an acting administrator with the Region of Peel’s Sheridan Villa. “But you almost have to put those brakes on, stop, and start looking . . . at the roots, build a foundation and then drive the change.”
She adds, “We’re talking about driving change for the future. One of my philosophies for my team is: let’s not be stagnant. Let’s continue to grow this and drive this further.”
The idea of looking to the future and imagining new possibilities is what drew Melissa and her fellow team members to the Culture Change Exchange. She, like many of the attendees who responded to the follow-up surveys, carries a sense of optimism and hope, believing that long-term care is moving in the right direction where true resident-centred and resident-directed care is possible.
Joanne Dykeman, executive vice-president of long-term care operations at one of Canada’s larger providers, Sienna Senior Living, spoke about “unbridling the passion” of dedicated team members who, like Melissa, are eager to help shape a different future through culture change. Like-minded people must come together to begin the conversation and any organization, large or small, must not be afraid to seek outside help or advice, for knowledge shared is a powerful tool.
Joanne also reiterated the importance of sharing the stories and celebrating the successes along the way, no matter the size, for change is never easy and storytelling can help remind people of what they are hoping to achieve and why. These stories, shared through a growing culture change network across the country, will bind together the ambitious people who are leading the culture change movement and co-creating a new future for our aging population. Through events like the Culture Change Exchange, the RIA and Schlegel CLRI will remain at the centre of this movement.
Written by Kristian Partington
To learn more about culture change and other resources available through the Schlegel CLRI, visit http://www.the-ria.ca/schlegel-clri/clri-resources/