At Origin at Spring Creek, it’s all about the people: residents and staff make it a special place to live and experience genuine community.
Origin’s Meet the Team series shines a light on some of the remarkable individuals bringing positivity and care to the lives of Origin residents every day.
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Meet Candace: Life Enrichment Lead Companion
The companionship program at Origin at Spring Creek began two years ago and has become a huge hit with residents since. With great patience, openness and empathy, companions accompany seniors throughout the day and provide friendship. And as Origin at Spring Creek’s Life Enrichment Lead Companion, Candace Timmerman handles her role with patience, positivity and understanding. With over twenty years in natural health care and helping others, Candace’s switch to senior care was a relatively new one, but one that she welcomed with open arms.
How long have you been a companion for Origin at Spring Creek?
Proud to say it’s been two years. I originally came here just to fulfill a part-time position that would help me start to get to know some people and integrate myself into Canmore as I was new here. And it wasn’t long after starting here that the Life Enrichment Manager came to me with the idea of moving into the companion role. And it just felt like the most natural thing.
Have you always wanted to work in senior healthcare before? And what made you decide to work as a companion?
It is this place that made me decide to work as a companion. I did not have aspirations for specifically senior health care. Although when I was younger, I did participate as a volunteer in senior residences quite often. I spent about 23 years in natural health care practice, mostly as a massage therapist and life coach. So it was very attractive to me to be in a role, working with people in this capacity… Being able to help them does very much feel like the work that I was doing before in terms of what value I can bring to the resident as [it] did with clients.
What does a typical day look like for you? And what’s your favourite part about your job?
So, “in a typical day” is interesting because there’s no such thing, in a way, there’s no such thing. I had written up quote-unquote “a day in the life of a companion” recently from my manager. And I started it by saying “it’s a day on like any other” because every day really does have a lot of variety… My favourite part absolutely is the one-on-one connection and the relationship building.
What sort of activities or events do you typically coordinate or help conduct, either separately or in collaboration with the Life Enrichment Team?
We have quite a variety of opportunities that way. Companion outings would include escorting residents to appointments, taking them on planned bus outings, bus trips, or scenic drives, walks on and off the premises. The Life Enrichment programs are so wonderfully diverse. We can always find something that we can use our companion time to help engage that resident in something that they enjoy. We offer a high tea in the memory care area every month, [we have] music weekly. We have the swimming pool and make quite a bit of good use of that as companions love that, exercise classes, social events within the community here. Lots of good things.
What are some of your favourite activities or events that the program provides for seniors, and what are some of the more popular activities amongst the seniors?
There are some things that stand out, first of all, music and any event or gathering [that includes music]… We have our little speakers that we can take along and put music on when we’re in the exercise room or even just when we’re having tea and a visit, but we have a weekly music therapy program for Morningstar House; wildly popular. It’s just great. And we sing all the good, old, familiar songs that everybody knows. It really reaches the person. I mean, we know how we respond to music. It’s tied in with music therapy. It is therapy.
I particularly really enjoy making use of the pool with companion residents. It’s such a great place for the kind of exercise therapy that can really benefit them in spite of whatever mobility issues they might be dealing with. That kind of thing. The bus outings are always a big hit. We live in one of the most scenic areas. [We can go out and] See the sky, see the sun, see the trees and the mountain tops. And yeah, it can change… your day. And for some people who aren’t able to get out very often, it can change your week. Their whole perspective. We’re in, I was going to say one of the most scenic places in the country, but I’m going to say we’re in one of the most beautiful places on earth. Love being able to take it down into that.
Are there any events or activities coming up in the next month or so that you’re particularly excited about?
You could ask this question every month and there’ll be something. This month in January, we are doing a bus outing to see the Banff snow days, snow sculptures, as well as at the end of the month, the Lake Louise ice sculptures, which are… beautiful. It’s really something to see. And then, one of our community activities that’s happening in January is Pyjama Day. So I’m kind of excited about that and we’re going to have a music bingo game and an afternoon matinee movie, and yeah, just a fun [time].
Origin’s Life Enrichment companionship program is incredibly important for seniors living an active and healthy lifestyle. But what do you think is one of the main benefits of the program for seniors who participate in it?
I think one of the most valuable things that a companion can bring to a resident in this role is the social, emotional support… There are many residents who are here on their own. May have not come here on their own, but are now after a spouse has passed or something like that. There are many residents who having a companion to provide some respite care for a partner that needs [it]. And just bringing the opportunities, making things accessible, getting to know them and understanding where their interests are and what they like so that we can engage in things that involve their mind and involve a sensory experience and a physical outlet.
Do you have any advice for those wanting to be a companion?
I think, really, the most important thing that you can bring to this role is your openness. Your time and attention. This is truly about the resident that you’re working with. And so, active listening and leaving your agenda at the door. We have to meet them where they’re at, first of all, to get to know and understand them. But we absolutely have to meet them where they’re at in order to have a good exchange, a good rapport to build that relationship. And it’s about service, and when you can come in and serve a person that way, you’re going to get every bit as much value as they are. It is the reward is in that.
Every person’s different in terms of what they can do, what they can’t do, what they like or don’t like… You’re talking about a lifetime of their experience and habits. And sometimes the time you spend as a companion with someone may be just to sit and be available for them to listen, to engage in. And other times it might be more active. We have a woman who is a watercolour artist and then suffered a stroke and is unable to, at this time, do very much with her paintbrush, but she still feels the passion for it. And so we will continue to take the paints out and put colour on paper. Just to get that feeling back and just to encourage.
…It makes her feel happy. It really does. And it just brings her attention back to something that she knows and loved so well.
Anything else you’d like to share about the program or your experience working at Origin?
Working at Origin, in particular, has so many great benefits. I did work self-employed for over 20 years, worked for a company before that in hospitality, and now back in a larger company. And I absolutely love it. The resources, the support, the teamwork, the interactions and communications between the various teams and how we support and provide for our residents.
It’s very uplifting. It instills a lot of confidence… And we’ve been doing this over the last two years during all of the changes that have come with COVID and the “we’re all in it together” motto really has applied. It’s been necessary. But it’s also been a real growth, I think, for the team. This is a place where we have ample opportunity to build trust and support each other, and pat each other on the back… because it’s the residents’ needs, safety, comfort, interests that comes first for everyone and everyone working in a common goal in that way.
Recently, our CEO introduced the ‘Choose Love Campaign’*, which really… speaks to me. I read it and went “yeah, a hundred percent.” And really, that’s what it speaks of, is that every little pebble makes a ripple in the water. And so with everything you do every day if you choose to do it in a loving way, you can’t miss. You can’t miss. So it’s a great campaign, I’m behind it. And I’m going to carry it through for as long as they keep me here. That’s when you really get to see the value in the work you’re doing, and when you get to work with people who matter, in a way that matters, for creating value and quality in their day… What more do you want? What more could you want?
The ‘Choose Love Campaign’ was recently introduced by Neil Prashad, the President and CEO of Origin care communities. About creating impact and change through love and compassion, the ‘Choose Love Campaign’ strives to have individuals choose love in every aspect of their lives, whether that be for others, themselves or the environment. A campaign dedicated to change and creating positivity, Origin at Spring Creek has adapted to it full-heartedly.
What is your leadership style like as the Life Enrichment Lead Companion at Origin?
I would have to say my leadership style, if you will, is very much about the simple things and the bottom line. That’s why that ‘Choose Love Campaign’ speaks so much to me because the love is in the details. It really is. And so just giving your time and attention to whatever it is your companion resident may need or wish for, that’s the reward. And everybody has a different need or just the enjoyment of a companion to do things with and have great conversation and make those connections… I think everybody needs a good companion.