First Impressions of Youville: Interview with Jo Ann

By: Angela So
Youville Residence

Before the week of the painting project: Lasting Impacts, I had a chance to talk with Jo Ann Tait, the Site Operations Leader at Youville Residence about her job and the wonderful experiences she encounters every day at Youville.

Angela: Hi Jo Ann, can you tell me a little bit about what you do as a Site Operations Leader at Youville?

Jo Ann: My responsibility is to support the people who live here, work here, and visit here at Youville. I am involved with program development, which means bringing new opportunities to support the older adults. My job also includes looking for talented and people with a passion for helping older adults. From community meetings to one to one relationships with the residents, we work at enhancing compassion with everyone we come into contact with. I’ve been with Youville for two years now, but my first introduction to Youville was actually back in the mid 80s and early 90s when my school’s (Little Flower Academy) Glee Club used to sing to the residents here!

Angela: What is the most meaningful aspect of your job?

Jo Ann: The most meaningful aspect is the relationship component. For me, it brings me back to what the most important thing in life is, which is the connection we have with people. Everyone has different personalities, and if I’m able to cultivate the relationship of resident to resident, to staff to resident, to staff to staff, and staff to visitors, we can greatly improve the quality of life for everyone at Youville.

Angela: Can you describe what a typical day is like for the residents at Youville?

Jo Ann: Every single day is different for everyone who lives here. The residents wake up when they want to. Some are early risers and get up at 6am in the morning, while some sleep in until 9am. When they awake, staff members are there to help them get washed and assist them to the bathroom. For breakfast, residents have a choice of eating in the dining room or in their own room.

 After breakfast, there is usually some kind of activity such as exercise, backing, or interactive groups . Baking groups are also held as each floor has a kitchenette that has sinks, stoves, and utensils. The staff will work with the residents in pre-planning the recipes and buying the ingredients, and some residents get to choose what they would like to make. We have a resident who used to be a wonderful cook, and he has great ideas on how to make different types of food. He was part of a baking group at Youville who made the most delicious desserts that looked like they were from a bakery! Sometimes, staff will read the newspaper to residents who can’t read the fine print or are unable to turn the pages.

Lunch is usually served from noon to 1pm and activities are held in the main dining hall afterward – this is the room that your Rover Scout Group will be painting on Saturday. We have a hard working Rehab Department who organize and run the activities in the afternoon that are generally more energizing. For example, we have groups that bring in animals like critters and creepy crawlies. The residents love it because they get to touch all the animals and get their pictures taken. You will see residents bowling or playing bingo and we sometimes bring in musicians to play for the residents and engage the residents in sing-alongs. We have a variety of fun activities led by our Music Therapist such as an upcoming drumming circle in June where a group comes in and drums with the residents. We do have occasional bus trips to take a few residents out, so we try to bring as much as we can to them at Youville.

Dinner time is around 5 pm in the evening. On some nights, there will be card games or Pub Night after dinner. Many return to their rooms to relax because families tend to visit in the evenings. Residents are assisted to bed between 7pm to 10pm to conclude their day.

 Angela: Can you tell me about a fun event that occurred in the dining hall this year?

Jo Ann: A few months ago, the residents wanted to celebrate Valentine’s Day with tea. The residents and staff asked if they could make some hats for the tea party, so the Rehab Department brought in a hat maker. Before the event, we held a large gathering of residents in the main dining hall where everyone made and decorated a hat for themselves. They were made in so many different colours and designs and we had them stored away for Valentine’s Day. On the day of the event, we all had tea, cupcakes, and coffee and everyone wore their hats and had their pictures taken. The residents loved their hats so much they wanted to wear the hats for Easter, so we organized an Easter egg hunt for them. The residents wore their hats and staff assisted them on their wheelchairs and everyone had a great time.

Angela: Last question, we would like to know what the most pressing thing that the community can help Youville accomplish?

 Jo Ann: The one area that we are trying to develop is the gardening area in our backyard and the gardening space in the patio area. We have a large backyard – about the size of a city block. Some of the residents have tried their hand with gardening, but we currently don’t have an area designated for doing that. Another problem is there’s no space to store gardening tools and gardening furniture, and I often wonder if there was a group who wanted to help with creating gardening beds for the residents, as well as build a wheelchair accessible gardening shed to house all the tools needed for gardening.

 This isn’t a part of your questions, but if you were to ask what the purpose of residential care is, I would answer that by saying it is truly by working with everyone to eliminate three things: loneliness, helplessness, and boredom. By creating opportunities for our elders where we strive to eliminate feeling lonely, to eliminate being on the receiving end of care all the time, and to rid them of boring times ~ that is truly our job. In order to truly succeed, Youville requires the help of the entire community: residents, staff, family, volunteers, and external partners to make this a place where people can not only be cared for, but who can thrive in their later years of life.

The interview I had with Jo Ann was very insightful and gave me a better idea of how the residents spend their days at Youville. The effort that all the staff at Youville puts in into entertaining the residents and improving the quality of life of the residents is truly remarkable. To be able to help make the dining hall a lot more wonderful for the older adults to use, makes me feel like I have also contributed to improving the quality of life of the residents that use the room. I believe that even the smallest actions can be the trigger for the start of bigger changes, and it is those small actions that are really inspirational.

[mojito_box]Don’t forget to check out the service project we have planned with Youville Residency[/mojito_box]

ElaineAu

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