Healthy Living in the North

Learning to care for an aging population with dementia

Two female staff members play cards.

Left to right: Elizabeth Johnson, Activity Worker and Brenda Miller, Clinical Nurse Educator.

As the population ages, dementia with older adults is becoming more common. At Northern Health, staff are taking a proactive approach by taking education to learn more about caring for those with moderate to severe cognitive impairments.

Gentle Persuasive Approaches (GPA) teaches care teams how to use a person-centred, respectful, compassionate, and gentle persuasive approach to respond to the behaviours associated with dementia. GPA equips staff with real-life strategies, helping them remain safe and confident in how they respond to different situations.

Trainers across the region have noticed an overwhelmingly positive reaction from staff.

“The initial reaction from staff is that they love it,” says Erin Murdoch, Clinical Nurse Educator for Peace Villa in Fort St John. “It’s opened their eyes to recognize how important person-centered dementia care is, and to recognize why behaviors associated with dementia happen. The training has made staff more compassionate towards the residents and their families.”

Three staff members play cards with a Gateway Lodge resident.

Left to right: Brenda Miller, Clinical Nurse Educator, Myrtle, Gateway Resident, Keya Russell, Social Worker, and Elizabeth Johnson, Activity Worker enjoying a game of cards.

“The biggest change we’ve noticed as a result of GPA is staff attitude,” says Jennifer Miller, RAI Clinical Lead and a GPA trainer based in Burns Lake. “They’re more understanding and have empathy for people with dementia. Staff think about why the challenging behaviour is happening and come up with innovative solutions to manage the behaviour. The solutions are more dignified and respectful. Before, if someone had a challenging behaviour problem, sedation or restraints would be used to manage the behaviour. Now, staff are coming up with person-centred solutions to manage behaviour. It’s all about us modifying our approach. Every class I’ve taught has commented that the training is very helpful, it helps them understand dementia better, and that they didn’t know there were so many types of dementia. Overall it has brought a new awareness.”

GPA is only part of Northern Health’s strategy for caring for older adults.

“Our long term care homes are actively participating in DementiAbility Methods across the entire region,” says Brenda. “DementiAbility Methods is a practical, evidence-based dementia care program. The program teaches care staff how to support the changing memory and thinking skills a person with dementia presents. It also teaches how to create home-like environments that best engage residents in a variety of ways to participate in activities and responsibilities that match their different needs, interests, strengths, and abilities. DementiAblitiy Methods provides assessment and care planning tools for nursing staff when problem solving difficult situations often associated with dementia care.”

Both GPA and DementiAblity Methods work together like hand in glove to improve the environment, culture and, care approaches of staff so that a resident’s day is the best it can be.

Tamara Reichert

About Tamara Reichert

Tamara is the communications advisor for the innovation and development commons at Northern Health where she works on a number of projects with the research, quality improvement, clinical simulation, and education teams. Born and raised in Prince George, Tamara grew up on a ranch where she rode horses, played with farm animals, built forts, and raided the family garden. She enjoys spending time travelling, hiking, cooking, reading, and cheering for her favourite sports teams.

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Northern Table: Gardening at Gateway

A short sunflower in a wood raised garden.

This sunflower adds a pop of colour to the garden’s greens.

This summer, my two-year-old son excitedly watched the raspberry bush in our backyard grow as he waited for the berries to turn red. When he tasted our first raspberry, his eyes widened, he jumped up and down, and couldn’t wait to have another! Watching him, I felt a sense of satisfaction, pride, and joy because he’s getting to experience growing and harvesting his own food right in his backyard. Do you know the feeling I’m talking about? The feeling of picking that first berry of the season and enjoying its sweet and tangy taste?

Now, imagine losing that feeling – not being able to take the fresh raspberries from the bush you’ve harvested for years, not being able to enjoy the crisp texture of a freshly picked carrot, or not feeling the satisfaction and joy of growing food for your family.

A hydroponics tower is located in a corner. It has several young plants growing in it.

The hydroponics tower turns “growing season” into a year-round event.

Many residents living in long-term care don’t get to experience these feelings anymore, and may not be able to participate in activities they used to love and found meaning in, like gardening. Backyard gardening or living on a rural agricultural property in Northern BC, and the experience of gardening and growing food for sustenance and pleasure, is a meaningful activity that some people greatly miss. Losing this connection to nature can affect their mental wellbeing. As a dietitian who loves the connection to food, this breaks my heart. At Gateway Lodge (Gateway) in Prince George, we’re helping create an environment where residents can experience growing, preparing, and eating homegrown fruit and vegetables again.

A team of people from the University of Northern BC (UNBC), BC Cancer, and Northern Health received a seed grant to grow vegetables and other edible produce in raised garden beds and a hydroponics tower at Gateway. With the help of residents, our team co-designed a gardening program that includes a shared gardening space between staff and residents, gardening time, and meaningful food and nutrition activities that support the nutritional and mental wellness of residents.

A hand holds a styrofoam cup filled with green smoothie.

A green smoothie, made from veggies from Gateway’s garden and sweetened with store-bought fruit, was a favourite of residents!

One activity that residents loved was making green smoothies from our harvest. We created delicious smoothies with greens from our gardens and added store-bought fruit to sweeten them up and make a vibrant, refreshing green drink.

Residents’ favourite recipe was a combination of greens (kale, Swiss chard, lettuce, spinach), banana, pineapple, vanilla almond milk, and ground flax seed – yum!

I’m thrilled with the opportunity to engage residents in meaningful and nourishing activities through gardening, and we hope to build on the success of 2019 for our next growing year!

Erin Branco

About Erin Branco

Erin is a dietitian who works with residents in long term care homes in Prince George. She is passionate about supporting residents’ quality of life as well as fostering their reconnection to food. In her spare time, you can find her with her family and friends, enjoying a meal, playing in the garden, camping or supporting clients in her private practice. She loves being a part of making positive change in healthcare, and is an advocate for providing best practice nutrition support to our northern communities.

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Welcome to the Kalum Café at Terraceview Lodge

A group of seven female staff stand and smile into the camera.

Some of the dedicated staff and volunteers that contributed to bringing the Kalum Cafe to life. (Left to right: Marivel Operana, Activity Worker; Hazel Lechasseur, Activity Worker; Amber Brown, Rehabilitation Assistant; Linda Lacasse, Activity Worker; Bonnie Casault, Recreation Coordinator; Gail Gyger, volunteer; Cheryl Block, Occupational Therapist)

Terraceview Lodge in Terrace is embracing changes to make it an environment that feels like home for residents. The facility recently transformed its lobby space on the second floor into a place for residents, families, visitors, and staff to gather. The result is the Kalum Café, an inviting space to socialize and enjoy a cup of coffee.

It took a lot of planning and teamwork between all of the Terraceview Lodge departments to work out the different aspects of the café.

“We were lucky to have a lot of support and people who wanted to contribute and see the café come to life,” says Bonnie Casault, Recreation Coordinator at Terraceview Lodge.

The space that would soon become Cafe Kalum, with four large recliners and a side table.

A view of the space before being transformed into Kalum Cafe.

“Part of the planning involved finding ways to engage residents, families, visitors, and staff in the creation of the café. We offered an opportunity for people to vote on the café’s name. We narrowed it down to two choices and residents, families, visitors, and staff voted on their favourite name. After the votes were counted, Kalum Café was the winner.”

“We’re so excited about this space becoming a new gathering spot that everyone can enjoy,” says Cheryl Block, Occupational Therapist at Terraceview Lodge. “It has vaulted ceilings with large windows that face west with views of the mountains. It’s the perfect place to experience seasonal changes including flowers blooming, trees changing colours, and snow falling.”

Several round tables with flowers on them, and chairs around them, are shown. The back wall has several coffee-themed signs hanging.

The space after being transformed into Kalum Cafe.

“The Kalum Café is furnished with chairs and tables that serve multiple functions,” continues Cheryl. “We have comfortablechairs with foot stools and tables with adjustable heights so they’re accessible for everyone. We used bright colours and included art on the walls to make the space even more inviting. Residents created a decorative wreath using coffee filters that they painted. It was a way we could have them contribute to the café’s design.”

Cheryl also notes that the Kalum Café serves more than a social purpose – it has clinical benefits as well.

“During occupational therapy, we work on resident’s mobility. This can be either walking or using a wheel chair. The café gives us a purposeful destination to go to rather than just going up and down the halls. We can also use it as a place for our different programming groups to meet.”

Kalum Café had their grand opening celebration on August 28, 2019. Residents, families, staff, community groups, and local government officials all attended the celebration.

Tamara Reichert

About Tamara Reichert

Tamara is the communications advisor for the innovation and development commons at Northern Health where she works on a number of projects with the research, quality improvement, clinical simulation, and education teams. Born and raised in Prince George, Tamara grew up on a ranch where she rode horses, played with farm animals, built forts, and raided the family garden. She enjoys spending time travelling, hiking, cooking, reading, and cheering for her favourite sports teams.

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The Mountainview Lodge Carnival: bringing fun to residents

Two women, who are dressed as clowns, are on either side of a male resident.

Jane McIlwrath (L) and Martha Flores (R) cheesing it up in some party hats with resident Timo Paivio.

Popcorn, ring toss, squirt guns, and clowns… all that was missing was the bumper cars and tilt-a-whirl – maybe next year!

Last month, the Mountainview Lodge in Kitimat, BC hosted its 2nd Annual In-house Carnival for about 20 residents. Organizers and Northern Health staff members Jane McIlwrath, Long-term Care Aide, and Martha Flores, Activity Worker, are already looking forward to next year.

“The residents really believe they’re at a carnival,” says McIlwrath. “It’s a lot of fun for them. We put this on because it’s exciting. The first one was little smaller, so we added more for this year. Next year, the grandkids are invited!”

Thank you to Jane and Martha for your creativity, and for bringing fun to and creating connections for the residents you work with! We’re looking forward to seeing the third carnival next year!

Check out the carnival pictures below!

Mike Erickson

About Mike Erickson

Mike Erickson is the Communications Specialist, Content Development and Engagement at Northern Health, and has been with the organization since 2013. He grew up in the Lower Mainland and has called Prince George home since 2007. In his spare time, Mike enjoys spending time with friends and family, sports, reading, movies, and generally nerding out. He loves the slower pace of life and lack of traffic in the North.

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PETRONAS Canada donations give Peace Villa residents mobility and connectivity

Four women stand in front of the new PETRONAS Canada shuttle bus for Peace Villa.

Pictured left to right: Kelly White (Peace Villa program coordinator), Connie Rempel (Peace Villa resident), Julie Bourdon (Sr. Stakeholder Advisor PETRONAS Canada), and Betty Willson (Peace Villa resident).

Transportation in the North is tricky. We have big winters, great distances between communities, and ever-changing routes and conditions. Because of these factors, in many ways, mobility is a challenge for the average person. It’s even more challenging for many of our older population – especially those who can’t drive, have physical limitations, or have other health issues related to aging.

With this being a reality of life in the North, we’re ever grateful for organizations and companies that help alleviate the stressors of transport for our aging populations.

One such company is PETRONAS Canada, in Fort St. John.

In May 2012, PETRONAS Canada (formally Progress Energy) purchased a Ford shuttle bus and donated it to Peace Villa Residential Care. The idea was to help the residents of Peace Villa get out to events, attend recreational trips, and go for community/rural drives.

Along with a recently updated decal wrap that has riders travelling in style, PETRONAS has set aside $2,000 as a donation that can be used directly by Peace Villa. This donation helps individuals who can’t normally attend events due to financial restrictions pay for things like admission tickets.

Helping people out with a ride is one thing, but making sure everyone gets to take part is pretty special. These outings allow residents to try something new, participate in events that they enjoyed before moving to Peace Villa, and help them stay connected to the community.

The bus, which runs three to five times a week, carries up to 14 residents and two staff at a time, and can even accommodate people who need the use of a wheelchair.

Mobility is such a huge part of everyone’s life, and it’s great to see a service that helps people continue living life to its fullest! Getting older doesn’t mean you should be less mobile. Everyone deserves to get out, do the fun things they want to do, and enjoy life!

Thank you, PETRONAS Canada, for your continued support and making this idea a reality for the residents of Peace Villa and the community of Fort St. John!

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InterAGE – A unique project brings students and seniors together at Gateway Lodge Assisted Living

Zach, a young man, plays cards with five seniors.

Zach, a UNBC student, lived in Gateway Lodge as part of the InterAGE Project.

University students are calling a seniors’ care facility “home” as part of an ongoing, experiential project that has set fertile ground for blossoming friendships, teachings, learnings, and research results.

The Intergenerational Activities for Growth and Engagement (InterAGE) Project was born when researchers at the University of Northern BC (UNBC) partnered with Northern Health, and a pilot project began in September 2018 with two UNBC students spending their Fall semester (four months) living in Gateway Lodge long-term care and assisted living facility in Prince George. As part of their full course load of university credits, the students enrolled in the experiential learning course, during which they were required to spend a minimum of 10 hours a week engaging in activities with the senior residents. The pilot project was a terrific success and has led to the continuation of the InterAGE Project.

“The students bring such a new and interesting perspective to our programming,” says Therapeutic Recreational Therapist Lynn Aucoin, describing the short- and long-term benefits of the project. “They’ve made great suggestions to augment what we offer, including adding more evening and weekend programming. I think the initiative is phenomenal!”

One of the first projects of its kind in Canada, InterAGE is compiling evidence-based results on intergenerational living. The research/experiential learning project is led by UNBC’s Dr. Shannon Freeman, Assistant Professor in the School of Nursing, and Prof. Dawn Hemingway, Associate Professor in the School of Social Work.

“The neat thing for me has been to observe the sharing between the students and the residents,” says Dawn. “The sharing of lifelong learning, with an open dialogue, in a class environment in a residential home. It’s been remarkable to see the exchange of ideas and experiences between the students and residents.”

Hemingway is referring to the weekly open class that is held in a bright and airy room at Gateway Lodge. Seated at tables in comfy chairs – sometimes with the fireplace on during Prince George’s chillier months – InterAGE students, any Gateway residents interested in participating, and guest speakers (including academics, professionals, and community members) gather to learn and discuss a wide variety of topics, such as:

  • Autonomy and risk.
  • Digital media and technology use to support well-being in later life.
  • Myths and stereotypes of aging.
  • Cognitive health in later life.
  • Grief, loss, and transitions.

The classes are held in a seminar style, supporting a safe environment for individual sharing and discourse.

“Going to the classes became one of the highlights of my week,” says Agnes, a Gateway resident who regularly attends the classes. “I’ve also had an opportunity to meet more of the other residents and also hang out with young people – it’s been great!”

Another Gateway resident, John, credits morning chats over coffee, and activities and games with helping him socialize more.

“[The lectures are] a really great learning experience. I learned that socializing and doing activities gets me out of my chair – it’s a really good thing.”

This project requires the trust and support of facility staff and leadership to succeed, and their impressions after the completion of an academic year are very positive.

Sandra Barnes, Manager of Residential Programs, oversees seniors’ programs and services in Prince George as a whole, including at Gateway Lodge. She sees the impact InterAGE is having at the service and individual levels as well. For Sandra, the students’ and seniors’ interactions are profound; as are the connections with the researchers and guest lecturers.

“We have new programs, new expertise informing our services – these relationships are so valuable,” says Sandra. “[This program] provides something unique. It’s different and innovative. We’re seeing new relationships develop among our residents as people from different aspects of care [and areas of the facility] gather to participate.”

Zachary Fleck recently took part in the Winter semester portion of InterAGE. Zachary is a third-year International Studies student who applied to participate in the program for the unique academic perspective. While he moved in anticipating the experiential learning, some of what he learned went well beyond scholarly pursuits.

“I’ve developed really meaningful relationships while I’ve been here,” says Zachary. “I’ve been able to create brand-new perspectives.”

The positive practical results of InterAGE’s pilot year may impact future planning for Prince George’s aging population as the program continues into the 2019-2020 academic year. Additionally, the project’s research outcomes will be shared among leaders in the long-term care field.

“When we started the project, it was the great unknown… would it work? Could it work?” muses Dr. Freeman. “With collaborative relationships, we’re able, as educators, to offer real experiential learning in this environment, and I value that so much. This is just the beginning. We’re continuing to learn and grow and recruit more students for the next semester!”

The success of the project, which brought young strangers into a seniors’ home, with all the potential worries and unknowns, can be summed up by one of the facility’s vibrant elders, ninety-two-year-old Rose.

“I noticed that Zach talked to everyone. And I’m thrilled to have lived this long, to see something so wonderful come to be. I said to Zach,” Rose says as she opens her hands in a welcoming gesture, “‘Come in, come in… you’re part of our family now.’”

UNBC students interested in participating in InterAGE or learning more about the project can contact either:

Andrea Palmer

About Andrea Palmer

Andrea Palmer is the Communications Lead for Capital Projects at Northern Health. She’s happy in all four seasons in Northern BC and loves getting out into the wild with her family. Andrea is a Southern transplant who came to the North “for just one year” to attend UNBC… more than twenty years ago. Suffice it to say the academic and professional opportunities, wild spaces, and open-hearted people are what make the North home for Andrea. Sunny winter skies and fresh powder for days don’t hurt either.

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Cruisin’ Classics bring their car show to the residents at Gateway Lodge

Classic cars are parked in stalls. A group of elderly men admire another car as it drives past them.

The Cruisin’ Classics Auto Club brought memories, stories, and beautiful cars to the residents of Gateway Lodge in Prince George.

On June 14, members of the Cruisin’ Classics Auto Club brought their prized vehicles and many smiles to Gateway Lodge, a long-term care facility in Prince George.

Lynn AuCoin, Recreational Therapist in Complex Care shared how the event impacted the residents living at Gateway:

“This is something that the Cruisin’ Classic Auto Club has been doing for many, many years and is so well received by our residents and their families. Often, many of our residents are unable to attend the actual Father’s Day Show and Shine in the park and the generosity of the club to bring the cars out to the seniors and visit the various long-term care facilities is just amazing and so thoughtful!

A man stands in front of of four classic automobiles.

The classic cars, which ranged in year, model, and make, needed both sides of the parking lot.

“Our residents so look forward to making their way out into the parking lot to see the cars pull into the lot and visit with the owners. Often, there is much reminiscing during the event, as well as the lead up to the cars’ arrival and after they leave! Conversations can be heard about residents’ past vehicles that they owned, what they paid for it, what colour, where they bought it, road trips and so on.

“This year, I was overwhelmed with the number of cars that showed up and how the drivers and owners were thanking me for allowing them to bring their cars to Gateway. I was continuously saying, ‘No, thank you! You have no idea how special this is to our residents to have you bring your prized possession to us and share it with our residents!’”

Thank you to Cruisin’ Classics for bringing so much joy to the residents at our long-term care facilities!

Sanja Knezevic

About Sanja Knezevic

Sanja is a communications advisor with Northern Health’s medical affairs department and is based in Prince George. She moved to Canada in 1995 from former Yugoslavia to Fort Nelson where she lived for a few years before moving to Prince George in 2000. Sanja enjoys photography, curling up with a good book, cooking and spending time with her friends and family.

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Overnight Home Support supporting seniors in Burns Lake

An elderly man and a young woman sit on a couch.

Harvey Funk, assisted living client in Burns Lake, and Kristen Remanda, community health worker.

Burns Lake has extended its home support hours to include overnight coverage. Now, town residents who use the Lifeline program have access to scheduled or unscheduled home support services through the night.

The overnight home support program started on November 1, 2018. As the pilot community for the extended hours, Burns Lake is currently the only BC community receiving the additional coverage. There are nine people signed up at the assisted living facility, Tweedsmuir House, as well as a couple community members who’ve scheduled check-ins linked to their Lifeline service.

How does the Lifeline program work?

With Lifeline, if a client needs help for any reason, they can press a small, waterproof personal help button (worn on a neck cord or wristband). Pressing the button calls a cell phone that’s managed by a home support worker, who can then respond and tend to the client’s needs.

In Burns Lake, a person can sign up with Lifeline, then opt into the extended overnight home support.

Clients must sign up for Lifeline, and when doing so, must choose where to direct the calls. In the past, if a patient had no family close by, they might list an ambulance service as the main contact. Now that there’s overnight home support, the first call can be to the overnight home support worker, avoiding unnecessary trips to the emergency room.

Helping seniors feel safe in their homes

Lifeline helps seniors feel secure and safe in their home; they know help is just a button push away. For example, when a patient falls, they press their Lifeline to call a home support worker. The home support worker can go see the patient in their home to determine if they need an ambulance or if family members should be contacted. If the call is beyond what the home support worker can do, they will support the senior until the ambulance or family member arrives.

Home support workers do scheduled overnight safety checks at Tweedsmuir House – even assisting clients who wake up very early in the morning. For instance, one client gets up extremely early (while the overnight home support worker is still on shift). Overnight home support workers are able to help this client with their personal morning routine before the day shift starts. This frees up time for the daytime home support workers to see more clients.

Home support workers also help people who need assistance getting to the bathroom at night. This lets people stay in their home longer, which is usually where they want to be.

The home support service is also available for people who are still living in their own homes within the village limits of Burns Lake.

Helping people return home from the hospital

In the past, having no overnight support at home has prevented people from leaving the hospital. They’re often well enough to go home, but still need overnight support for certain things and don’t have family who can assist. Overnight support service lets people return home with peace of mind, knowing they’ll be checked on when needed.

If you or a family member in Burns Lake is interested in Lifeline’s overnight home support services, please call 1-800-387-1215. You must live in the town of Burns Lake as the current support only covers people living within town limits. The hope is that the service will be expanded later. At this time, staff safety, and sustainability are the first priority.

If you do not live in Burns Lake and would like more information about Lifeline, please visit Northern Health’s Lifeline Emergency Response Program page.

Bailee Denicola

About Bailee Denicola

Bailee is a communications advisor in the Primary Care Department and was born and raised in Prince George. She graduated from UNBC with an anthropology degree and loves exploring cultures and learning about people. When not at work, Bailee can be found hanging out with her dogs, building her house with her husband, or travelling the world.

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Making a difference in the lives of older adults: a UNBC researcher’s passion

Shannon Freeman is pictured.

Shannon Freeman’s grandparents played a large role in her upbringing. Their impact influences her research today.

I’ve always been curious about researchers at post-secondary institutions. What made them want to get into research, and what continues to drive them? Through my role at Northern Health, I’ve been fortunate to meet multiple researchers at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC).

To finally appease my curiosity, I approached Shannon Freeman, Associate Professor in the School of Nursing and avid researcher at UNBC, to learn about her path to becoming a researcher and her current projects.

“My upbringing wasn’t traditional,” says Shannon, who grew up in a small town of less than 1,000 people in Southern Ontario. “I was partially raised by my grandmother, and my grandparents were very influential in my life. We developed a strong bond, which drew me towards a career where I could make a difference in the lives of older adults.”

Shannon considered some professions that help older adults, but they weren’t the right fit. She discovered her love of research while finishing her degree across the Pacific Ocean.

“I went to Japan to complete my master’s education. My research project focused on centenarians [people who have lived to or beyond 100 years of age] and longevity. They have a high number of centenarians, and I was interested in learning what they do differently to live so long. It motivated me to get involved with research as my career.”

Shannon’s current research projects focus on improving the quality of life for older adults through meaningful engagement.

Five residents of Gateway Lodge play cards with a university student.

Residents at Gateway Lodge enjoy a game of cards led by a UNBC student as part of the interAGE project.

“Two projects that I’m currently working on at Gateway Lodge in Prince George are the interAGE intergenerational cohousing project and Grow Your Own horticulture project,” says Shannon. “Everything I do connects with older adults.”

Both of these projects focus on reducing social isolation in the long-term care setting.

The interAGE project involves two UNBC students living in Gateway Lodge’s assisted-living wing for a semester. The students are responsible for developing and delivering activities that are in addition to residents’ regularly scheduled activities.

“The residents really enjoy living and interacting with the students. Activities are well attended and it’s been a positive experience for everyone involved.”

Succulents and other plants grow in a pots in an indoor garden.

The indoor flower garden at Gateway Lodge is a welcoming place for residents and their families to enjoy all year.

The Grow Your Own project focuses on gardening.

“Residents identified gardening as something they wanted to do. Last year was our first year with the project. This year, we’ve added outdoor raised beds that are designed for standing people and those in wheelchairs. A core group of residents lead the project, and plan what to plant. It’s an activity they find meaningful, and are committed to.”

For Shannon, there is no greater success than hearing that you changed someone’s perspective on aging.

“I love what I do, and the older adults and partners that I work with on these research projects continue to inspire me every day. I’m excited to start new projects that build on this work. Research allows me to give back to my community and make a difference in people’s lives.”

True to her word, she is already planning her next project: indoor hydroponic gardening at Gateway Lodge.

Tamara Reichert

About Tamara Reichert

Tamara is the communications advisor for the innovation and development commons at Northern Health where she works on a number of projects with the research, quality improvement, clinical simulation, and education teams. Born and raised in Prince George, Tamara grew up on a ranch where she rode horses, played with farm animals, built forts, and raided the family garden. She enjoys spending time travelling, hiking, cooking, reading, and cheering for her favourite sports teams.

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The St. John Hospital acute care garden: improving quality of life for people waiting for long-term care

The acute care garden gives seniors waiting for long-term opportunities for engagement, socialization, and mobility.

This spring, the residents and staff at St. John Hospital (Vanderhoof) came together to start a garden for acute care patients who are on long-term care waitlists. Acute patients who are waiting for a long-term care spot can have limited access to activities and recreation. This project gives them opportunities for engagement, socialization, and mobility on the acute floor.

Many of the residents grew up in or around Vanderhoof, and were avid farmers and gardeners throughout their lives. Now, they can tend, water, weed, and enjoy this garden. Doing so reconnects them to their past, sparking old memories, and contributes to their sense of purpose.

This project was started by the Rehabilitation Department at the St. John Hospital, which includes occupational therapist Valerie Padgin, rehabilitation assistant Roxanne, and myself (also an occupational therapist). It’s part of a DementiAbility initiative.

Thanks to the generous donations and support from several family members, the acute care garden is now thriving, growing tomatoes and lettuce! This project wouldn’t be possible without:

  • Maya Sullivan from the Vanderhoof Community Garden for loaning the hospital a wheelchair accessible planter, which got the project started.
  • The Men’s Shed for building two additional planters.
  • The Co-op and Home Hardware in Vanderhoof for donating soil, potting mix, gloves, hand tools, and a watering can.
  • Eileen at Maxine’s Greenhouse for donating dozens of beautiful plants that are flourishing in the garden.
  • Allan Pagdin and Joanne Petrie, who put in several hours of time and labour to make the project a success.

We hope the garden continues to grow and improve the lives of our residents and acute care patients!

Laura Giroux

About Laura Giroux

Laura is an Occupational Therapist at the St. John Hospital in Vanderhoof. Originally from Vancouver Island, Laura has been in the North for nearly four years, and enjoys all of the recreation and outdoor activities that it has to offer. She recently joined the Rehabilitation Department at St. John Hospital and is excited to work on such a creative and compassionate team.

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