Advocate changes outlook and purpose for resident

For Rhonda Steinwand, an LPN at Our Lady of the Rosary Hospital in Castor, mental health has always been her passion.

So when she met Joan McGregor, a resident in long-term care at the hospital, she felt a connection and a desire to help Joan with her daily struggles.

Moving into the facility at 68, Joan was a lot younger than most residents. Living with bipolar disorder had left Joan isolated, paranoid and at times difficult for other residents to engage with.

“I could see my mom in her,” says Rhonda. “How would I want my mom treated if she were in a facility?”

Rhonda approached Joan’s public guardian to see whether there was a position available as her personal companion. The position was available, and Rhonda was hired and paid through the public trustee.

“Joan used to sit and talk with me while I worked in the foot clinic,” says Rhonda. “She still had her wits about her, and you could have a good conversation with her,” says Rhonda.

Joan and Rhonda on their way to Hanna to see The Nutcracker.

“It doesn't need to be big stuff; sometimes we need to sit down and just hold a hand.”

Positive affirmations were placed in Joan’s room. A favourite quote was, "You're only half dressed if you're not wearing a smile."

Spending time talking with Joan, Rhonda found out she enjoyed ballet, so she arranged to take Joan to see Romeo and Juliet in Edmonton.

When Ballet Kelowna came to Hanna, Alta., Rhonda was able to take Joan to see the performance.

“She brought home a brochure and she was adamant that she wanted to leave money to Ballet Kelowna,” says Rhonda. “Knowing that she was on a high at that time, I left it awhile. But she persisted, so I made arrangements for her to do so.”

“Joan was so happy to leave a legacy with them,” says Rhonda. “We want to feel like we've had an impact, that we've been able to share, to know that you are someone and you are important.”

“You can deal with broken legs, but the mind is a lot harder. I think it was frustrating for her too.”

Caring for Joan has had a significant impact on Rhonda.

“Do we take the time to get to know our residents?” asks Rhonda. “It's not always easy, when bells are ringing and family are wanting stuff. At the end of the day, we have to open our hearts more.”

Joan passed away in 2015 and fulfilled her request to leave money to Ballet Kelowna. At a recent performance, the ballet director acknowledged Joan and dedicated their 150 Moves Tour in memory of Joan. 

What is bipolar disorder?

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