Celebrating Twenty-five Years of Meaningful Service
By Sandy Griffin
Dedicated to my family and my colleagues at Extendicare.
Interviewed and edited by Liz Pearl @PK Press 2020
Please meet Sandy Griffin: we have been colleagues for 22 years at Extendicare Guildwood, Extendicare Inc.
I have been fortunate to work alongside Sandy—in my role as educator/program consultant to the residents as well as to her incredible team of recreational therapists and activation aids.
Sandy and her team of dedicated staff are working tirelessly to provide the best possible quality of life for the residents every day, and in particular, during this Covid pandemic. ―Liz Pearl
“No act of kindness is ever wasted”―Aesop
Shortly after graduating from the University of Windsor with a BA in Family Studies and with a certificate in Gerontology I began my career in the Extendicare Guildwood Long Term Care home located in the quaint Guildwood Village. The quaint residential neighbourhood in Scarborough bordering Lake Ontario was a pleasant surprise; and my career has been a wondrous journey. This past summer―2019 marked my 25-year work-anniversary at the home.
Initially―1994, I worked in restorative care in activities and was subsequently appointed in 2001 to Resident Program Manager. Throughout my career in Program Management, I have maintained a firm belief in the value of restorative care as a significant component of integrated resident care as well as cooperative teamwork. Restorative care, including: walking, eating, grooming and all activities of daily living, contribute directly to maintaining independence and dignity in the latter years.
I am passionate about my purpose; I care deeply about the quality of life of the residents. I take seriously my professional responsibility in providing the utmost in terms of quality of life in programming, and beyond, for the residents of Extendicare Guildwood. Often, I think of my role as “doorkeeper of their happiness”.
Proudly, I have been a pioneer in implementing many progressive changes within the activity department and throughout Extendicare Guildwood. The programming schedule has substantially developed and offers a dynamic range of diverse activities. Over the years, I have streamlined the schedule to be consistent with union criteria. The monthly Activity Calendar is user-friendly with added graphics. I am always on the look-out for exciting innovative opportunities for my department.
I have been instrumental in effecting several initiatives over the years, including the following highlights.
“Caring Hands”―Dwayne Wyras was the visionary of this comprehensive platform; and I was a supportive partner in bringing the unique campaign to the Activity Department and the various projects to fruition. The campaign included a new vision for resident care, a colourful stained-glass window and an artistic plaque handprint-painted by the staff and residents.
Music and Memory—I was a trailblazer in bringing this collaborative initiative to Extendicare Guildwood. This creative program evolved from a partnership with a youth group―4Life Foundation. They provided the technical component of downloading customized playlist music for our residents, enjoyed on headphones supplied by the activity department. This program was featured by the Alzheimer’s Society of Ontario as an innovative program for dementia care. Subsequently, this program was recognized by Extendicare Corporate, and expanded throughout Extendicare homes in Ontario.
We are fortunate to have a variety of trained specialists including: brain training, music and dance therapy, Montessori, clown therapy and pet therapy.
Sensory1– award-winning interactive multi-purpose projection, manufactured in England.
I have been recognized for this most recent initiative; we are the first Canadian facility to purchase this newest model. The multi-use projector allows for engaging and stimulating activities. Definitely, the residents are intrigued and the innovative device has created a buzz. I’m excited to be a local leader with regard to this progressive programming digital resource. Recreational Activities for older adults are always developing, and certainly technology allows for innovative program design.
Throughout the years, I have been privileged to meet and develop meaningful rapport with many residents, family members, staff, and volunteers. This rewarding opportunity has allowed me to develop my interpersonal skills far and wide. I have been fortunate to improve upon my public speaking and have gained confidence along the way.
Of course, some inspiring individuals stand-out in my mind.
Andy Baros—was a former administrator. I recall those years as happy years, in a happy home. Andy was a Social Worker by profession, and so he was foremost a people-person, which impacted the tone he set during his years of administration. During this time, we developed the courtyard and planted a lovely garden. I was a dedicated partner in making improvements inside and outside the home. Our annual summertime garden party is always a highlight.
Rosemarie Lindau― Long-Term Care Program Consultant – Corporate Office at Extendicare is passionate about her work; she has elevated the profile of resident programming from the corporate perspective. I have worked collaboratively with her on numerous projects including in 2016—updating the Extendicare Recreation and Volunteer Manual. Several times I have presented at corporate conferences with regard to best practices, the gold standard for programming in long term care.
Two former residents in particular, I recall fondly are Margaret Whitehead and Isobel Martin. These women both motivated me with their pleasant smiles and with their unwavering faith, even in the face of adversity.
As in many long term care homes, we rely significantly on the passion and compassion of dedicated community volunteers. Several volunteers are truly inspiring in terms of their loyalty and caring capacity, and they have each contributed greatly to the social landscape of Extendicare Guildwood.
- Pat Every― longstanding lay chaplain and deeply spiritual person.
- Frank Hester― longstanding weekly Sing-song leader.
- Marlene Iwasin―longstanding mealtime and dining room volunteer.
I have been fortunate to work alongside these kind individuals and develop friendships with them.
In my role as Activity Director, I have enjoyed the gratifying opportunity to mentor, guide and teach many staff and students. As I reflect upon my career, and look to the future, I hope to inspire the next generation of activity directors and program assistants. I wish to instill in them the significance of their daily service. Working in long term care, we are given the sacred responsibility of enhancing the lives of the older adults we serve. Each day, I hope to impart the paramount value of this meaningful service. Truly, I love my work and I treasure the vast and deep rewards.
Sandy Griffin lives in Toronto with her family. She enjoys spending time with her family, especially her grandson David, reading and browsing Pinterest for innovative ideas.