After a Bachelor of Science in Anatomy and Cell Biology, followed by a minor in Psychology, Vicky Lyroudias obtained her Bachelor of Science in Occupational Therapy from McGill University in 2002. After a few years of practice, she went back to school, again at McGill University, and got a Master's degree in Rehabilitation Sciences.
"Having had a very positive experience with my grandfather who lived with me, I always knew that I wanted to help people and work with an older clientele. I did some research and discovered Occupational Therapy by accident, and I was very glad," says Vicky.
The Donald Berman Maimonides Geriatric Centre is where she found her first job in 2002. She still works there. It's a place with a mix of cultures, both in the staff and the residents. "I fell in love with the clientele, the incredible rehabilitation team and all the other professionals. It feels like family! "says Vicky.
Her days are never the same. She works mainly with a geriatric clientele, sometimes a little younger. Her work methods are adapted according to the residents she meets and their health condition. "I can both counsel and intervene with a person with Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease, who has a mental health or dementia problem. Our profession is so diverse and exciting! "she adds.
"We are so lucky at Maimonides to have professionals who are all dedicated to improving the lives of our elderly persons.We are all working towards the same goal, in different ways, because we see things through different lenses! I like how we share ideas and try to solve problems together. We support each other, especially in this time of COVID-19.”
For Vicky, being an Occupational Therapist means teaching a "young" 93-year-old woman how to use a computer, helping an obese 72-year-old woman, who was mostly bed-ridden, obtain a motorized wheelchair, and training staff to reduce the use of anti-psychotic drugs among residents.
"Working with long-term care elderly is so enriching. They teach us a lot about life. I've been in this profession for almost 18 years and I'm still learning every day!" concludes Vicky.
Rachel Eskanazi earned her Bachelor's degree in occupational therapy from the University of Montreal in 1999. "I knew I wanted to work in the healthcare sector,” Rachel says. “When I read the description of occupational therapy, I recognized myself and that's why I applied."
The opportunity to work in her neighbourhood and the choice of a better work-family balance led her to accept a position at the Henri Bradet Residential Centre. "For several years, I've been working with clients who have had a loss of autonomy. Many suffer from a form of dementia and sometimes other medical conditions," Rachel explains.
Her workdays are anything but boring. As part of her daily routine, she receives feedback about recent and relevant developments involving the residents, as well as information about their general state of health. "Then I decide what my priorities are and I assess how I can handle them, in collaboration with my nursing colleagues, the orderlies, the physiotherapy technologist, the dietician and the social worker."
Teamwork is essential, especially when approached with respect, mutual support, communication and understanding of one another's point of view. Action plans are based on expectations, goals and what is important to each resident. "I really enjoy working with them. We’re like one big family, like a second family for many of our residents," Rachel says.
Rachel's duties in long-term care include assessing residents' functional abilities and adapting the environment to compensate for disabilities. "I can provide aids for mobility and posture, make recommendations for skin integrity, and design the environment to reduce the risk of falls," she says.
"What I enjoy most is working with and for people. I like meeting the residents on a daily basis. I get to know them and their stories, their habits, the names of their children and their loved ones. Sometimes, with dementia, residents are a little confused. Seeing a familiar face like mine reassures and comforts them. I like to know my presence makes a difference in their daily lives."
Sacha Vincent-Toskin holds a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology and a Master's degree in occupational therapy, both from McGill University. “Founded in science and based on a human approach, occupational therapy represents anatomy, human psychology, teamwork and problem-solving,” explains Sacha about her chosen profession. “What you do varies, depending on where you work. Whether it's with children or adults, the possibilities with occupational therapy are endless.”
Sacha began her career as an occupational therapist at the Constance-Lethbridge site of the Layton-Lethbridge-Mackay Rehabilitation Centre. She notes that few centres of this kind in Montreal offer such unique programs as vehicle and driving adaptation, technical aid services, and access to technology. “CIUSSS West-Central Montreal, which includes Constance-Lethbridge, has access to all types of health facilities, such as CHSLDs, CLSCs and hospitals. This is very useful for developing skills and solid professional experience in many fields.”
Sacha also spends a great deal of time on the road, working with adult and geriatric clients in CHSLDs, at home or in seniors' residences. Three to four times a week, she meets with clients who move around with the help of walkers or wheelchairs, and she assesses their needs for positioning and walking aids.
Sacha works with several other professionals daily. “Whether it involves physiotherapists, orderlies or nurses, teamwork is essential. I’m constantly learning from them and I benefit from excellent mentoring. Most of my colleagues have between 10 and 15 years of experience and are always available to help a young graduate like me.”
This teamwork is essential to her. “I can meet up to a dozen people a day and attend three or four clinics a week,” she explains. “My team’s communication and listening skills allow me to find solutions that will considerably improve the quality of life and autonomy of the clients I meet. And that really makes them happy.”
Alexandra Croce earned a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology at Concordia University and a Master's in occupational therapy at McGill University. "I chose occupational therapy to help the vulnerable and enable them to maximize their autonomy," Alexandra says.
She started working at Donald Berman Maimonides Geriatric Centre before it became part of CIUSSS West-Central Montreal. "Maimonides has a reputation for excellence in long-term care,” she explains. “Since the creation of the CIUSSS, I have had an opportunity to work in some of our CIUSSS’s other long-term care centres that share the same standards of quality. In fact, I have worked at four of them through the years. This has made it possible for me to acquire a considerable amount of experience. I'm grateful to have had this chance."
Most of Alexandra’s professional interventions are carried out with the objective of maximizing the comfort, quality of life and autonomy of geriatric clients. She is involved in properly positioning residents (for example, in bed or in a wheelchair) and she looks after the integrity of their skin, as well as their safety and the autonomy of their day-to-day activities.
"The length of stay in long-term care is longer than in most other areas where occupational therapy is required," Alexandra says. “This allows me to develop relationships with residents and their families.”
At times, the workload can be daunting for Alexandra, who intervenes in variety areas. However, she accomplishes her daily tasks by prioritizing her work and by exercising the flexibility and autonomy that are part of her job. This, along with her reliance on a solid team, is a significant pillar of her professional success.
"Each member of our team uses his or her expertise to provide a comprehensive approach to resident-centred care,” she says. “Teamwork motivates all of us to be more creative and holistic in our professional practice, which makes the work exciting. We also have weekly interdisciplinary meetings to discuss the residents, so the tasks don’t seem insurmountable. I feel privileged to be part of this team."
For Alexandra, every day is different—and so is every resident. "I'm very proud to be helping the elderly, who have paved the way for us. I’m honoured to be sharing their current home and making these years as comfortable and as fulfilling as possible for them."