Tanya the Turkey a source of inspiration at West Lake

Tanya the Turkey is seen here outside West Lake Terrace.

Tanya the Turkey is seen here outside West Lake Terrace.

Wild bird’s presence is calming resident agitation

Friday, February 28, 2014 — Deron Hamel

Sometimes inspiration for resident-centred care comes from an unexpected source, as the West Lake Terrace team has recently discovered.

When a wild turkey began showing up at the Prince Edward County long-term care home — ironically around Thanksgiving in October — staff members noticed the positive impact the bird was having on residents, especially those with cognitive impairment.

Nicknamed Tanya the Turkey, the bird has since taken to hanging around the home’s front door, often peeking into the windows.

Registered nurse Tracy Dowdall says one resident who has cognitive impairment and is often affected by agitation will become calm when he sees the turkey.

It can be challenging to divert this resident’s attention, Dowdall notes, but Tanya the Turkey has done an excellent job at making the resident happy.

“When she comes to a window, we will bring this resident in his wheelchair so he can see her, and he calms right down,” Dowdall tells the OMNIway. “Ordinarily, this resident’s attention wanders very quickly, but when Tanya the Turkey is in sight his attention stays.”

In fact, the resident will often look for the bird, sitting by the dining room windows waiting for her to appear.

And this isn’t the only resident who has taken a shine to the turkey, Dowdall says. Since this has been a harsh winter, residents have stayed indoors more than usual, so many people who usually enjoy going outside have looked to Tanya the Turkey to provide stimulation, she says.

“It’s really neat to look outside and see the breast feathers of a wild turkey pressed up against a window,” Dowdall says.

Tanya the Turkey is also proving to be a source of motivation for residents involved in the home’s physiotherapy program. Dowdall notes how when Tanya is hanging around, the physiotherapy assistants promise residents they will get to visit her when they’ve completed their exercises.

Staff members have been feeding the bird to ensure she keeps returning. Dowdall has also been in contact with a local bird expert for advice on the best feed the team can leave for Tanya.

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