The gift of caring

Twelve years ago, registered nurse Lyndsey Wintle, wondered what she could do to help bring a little extra holiday cheer to the older adult patient population she worked with in the mental health care program at St. Joseph’s.

While brainstorming with colleagues around a table, little did she know that her efforts would lead to the now widely anticipated Snowflake Bazaar – an annual event held by St. Joseph's Geriatric Psychiatry Program to purchase holiday gifts for older inpatients and outpatients.

Snowflake bazaar organizers

Geriatric patients received their gifts from St. Joseph’s staff at a special holiday luncheon. From left: Occupational therapist Sara Jibb, patients Linday Walsh and Elizabeth Ho and occupational therapist Erin Finley.

St. Joseph’s Geriatric Psychiatry Program provides specialized care and support to aging clients who suffer from late onset mental illnesses. Focusing on assessment, treatment, rehabilitation, prevention, family/community support and education, the team provides a rounded approach to care which includes the mental, physical, spiritual, cultural, psychological and social aspects of aging.

The bazaar, which was held this year on Nov. 29 at Parkwood Institute’s Mental Health Care Building, is a collaborative effort between staff and patients featuring raffles, a yard sale, crafts, a penny sale, and a festive café.  All proceeds go towards gifts for older patients, which are hand-selected and wrapped by staff and presented at a special holiday lunch. 

“For many of our geriatric patients, it’s the only holiday present that they will receive this year,” says Lyndsey. “Sometimes the gift is something they need, a special holiday meal or something we know they will treasure. Everyone appreciates the gift they receive.”

At this year’s Snowflake Bazaar, staff were also encouraged to participate in the Warm Wishes Blanket Donation Program, organized by Western University students, for geriatric patients to bring a blanket home with them when they leave the hospital.

For patients like Linda Walsh, the sentiment has not gone unnoticed. “The staff here are so great,” says Linda. “To do something like this for us means they are very dedicated. It means a lot.”

An idea that began as a simple goodwill gesture has snowballed over the years into a cherished event for staff, patients and families.

“This is one of the best parts of my job,” says Lyndsey. “It’s rewarding to bring out a gift and see our patients become like children again as they anticipate what it might be.  It means so much to everyone involved.”

staff wrapping gifts for patients

Registered nurses from St. Joseph’s Geriatric Psychiatry Program wrap presents for patients, purchased with money raised from the annual Snowflake Bazaar. Clockwise from left: Kelly Hovorka, Susan Macdonald and Carrie Howard, Morgan Blizzard, Howard Ramsay, Lyndsey Wintle.

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