CEO gives OMNI homes a top grade for COVID-19 response

‘It has really been about dedicated staff going over and above,’ says Patrick McCarthy

Asked how he would grade team members at OMNI Health Care’s 18 long-term care homes for their response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization’s president and CEO Patrick McCarthy doesn’t hesitate in his response.

“A-plus is considered the top mark, but we need to put another plus beside it” to truly recognize the contribution of staff members, McCarthy tells The OMNIway.

The global COVID-19 pandemic was declared in March by the World Health Organization. OMNI homes immediately put strict ministry protocols into effect, and OMNI’s pandemic plan was followed to the letter.

Knowledge of the virus, its transmission and impact has grown over time, and protocols, directives and guidelines have continuously evolved to reflect that knowledge.

The expanded availability of public health resources for testing and tracing has also had a significant effect on the ability to contain the spread.

While a major COVID-19 outbreak did occur in late March at one OMNI home, Almonte Country Haven, McCarthy says staff members at the home went above and beyond to care for residents in the face of the highly contagious virus.

“They were heroic in the contributions they made and their personal sacrifices; they showed tremendous passion and caring for their residents and each other,” he says.

Limited outbreaks among staff or residents have occurred at several other homes, and staff showed equal dedication and caring, McCarthy adds.

Aside from adhering to safety protocols and strong staff diligence, McCarthy says OMNI homes have also focused on communication with staff during the pandemic.

For example, daily team huddles for staff members to talk about issues and share information with each other on everything from residents’ well-being to the availability and use of personal protective equipment to the latest information about the COVID-19 virus has been vital.

But more than anything, McCarthy says OMNI staff members’ resident-centred approach to care and dedication to their work has been the big story during the pandemic.

“It has really been about dedicated staff going over and above,” he says. “They made sure the residents were cared for and were kept safe in a very difficult situation.”

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Baking season returns to the Willows

Residents bake 5 apple pies for recent tea social

At Willows Estate, autumn is baking season, says life enrichment aide (LEA) Azaria Kanda.

“As the weather cools, the leaves turn yellow, red and fall, it’s the perfect time to bake all the good old homemade pies and cakes to warm our hearts,” he tells The OMNIway.

With LEA Rosalie Patchell supervising, a group of residents at the Aurora, Ont. long-term care home were recently busy preparing and baking five apple pies that were served during a tea social on Oct. 18.

Aside from the residents’ work resulting in delicious apple pies for everyone to enjoy, baking also brought back many fond memories for the residents, Azaria says.

“These ladies, along with Rosalie, were socializing while reminiscing about their own former baking hobbies, family gatherings and much more,” he says.

“It is such a delight to watch these ladies fully immersed in this activity, for we know how much this has a positive effect on people. You can feel the exhilaration and pure joy as one is in charged of peeling the apples, while one is working on the dough and the other is helping set up the trays in preparation for the baking.”

Azaria adds that activities like this also bring back a valuable sense of accomplishment for residents, who know the fruits of their labour were enjoyed by many.

“No matter how old you are or where you sit in life, you want to feel like you are making a contribution to society or even a small living circle,” he says.

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BSO interventions have enhanced quality of life for Riverview Manor residents during pandemic

Team members reflect on how they have helped residents through a challenging time

The global COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging to deal with for all people living in long-term care homes, but many residents who are also living with cognitive impairment have found the lack of family contact and physical restrictions the pandemic has brought to be especially challenging, say members of Riverview Manor’s Behavioural Supports Ontario (BSO) team.

However, Karlie Phillips and Carly Kenny say the BSO team has applied interventions that have helped residents of the Peterborough long-term care home through this difficult time.

For example, one resident living with cognitive impairment who will sometimes wander was finding restrictions difficult to cope with during an isolation period, so BSO team members engaged her in activities she found interesting.

Of note, Karlie says the resident enjoys colouring and sorting activities, so team members would bring her colouring books and sorting games that would keep the resident busy and, most importantly, happy.

On those occasions when the resident wished to leave her room, Karlie says she would equip the resident with a mask and accompany her to the dining room where they could be alone.

Karlie would then provide one-to-one activities to safely give the resident the change of environment she needed.

Adapting to the resident’s needs worked well, Karlie says.

“The resident understood why (the restrictions were in place); we had to explain why things were different and why we have to wear masks, and eventually she would stay in her room,” Karlie explains.

Sometimes the resident would come to her doorway, but team members understood this was a cue the resident was looking for someone to spend time with, so team members would stay with the resident.

Carly notes that isolation can increase agitation for people living with dementia, but by using BSO interventions and working collaboratively with other staff members, the BSO team members can enhance quality of life for residents.

“We really want to make sure that we have interventions to make sure residents (maintain their quality of life) – it’s a process, but we’ve been successful,” she says.

BSO team lead Becky Dennie says BSO skills have been “very important” during the pandemic.

“It has been especially important to have the specially trained staff to work with people exhibiting behaviours because (the pandemic) does create new behaviours – loneliness being huge – and having those familiar faces popping in to see them throughout the day has helped,” she says.

BSO is a provincial initiative that’s enhancing quality of life for seniors affected by dementia and other conditions that can cause agitation. The funding, which is provided to long-term care homes through the province’s 14 Local Health Integration Networks, is largely put towards staff education.

– More to come

LEA helping Frost Manor residents tap into their creativity

Sarah Thayer has been leading a popular art program at the Lindsay LTC home

While coming up with ideas for resident programming has been challenging during the global COVID-19 pandemic, the Frost Manor life enrichment team has found a revamped art program has been successful at engaging the Lindsay long-term care home’s residents in a meaningful activity.

Life enrichment aide (LEA) Sarah Thayer recently began a painting program that was first led by LEA Kim Williams – who is now life enrichment co-ordinator (LEC) at Pleasant Meadow Manor – and was popular with residents.

The program starts with Sarah creating a drawing that serves as a model, and the residents create their own painting based on that drawing.

The first time Sarah led the program for residents she painted a birch tree. For October, the model will be a silhouette of a cat sitting on a tree branch. November will feature a Remembrance Day poppy.

“The great thing is we can do this socially distanced, which works out really well,” Frost Manor LEC Lyndsay Burton tells The OMNIway, adding the program has been “going over really well.”

Lyndsay says that although safety is the No. 1 priority during the pandemic, life enrichment departments can still develop fun programs for residents.

“You have got to be really creative, but you can still keep on doing the normal things,” she says.

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Riverview Manor residents share all they are thankful for during Thanksgiving services

The global COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in many changes affecting long-term-care home residents in 2020, but there are still many things for which Riverview Manor residents are thankful.

During the Thanksgiving holiday, the Peterborough long-term care home’s residents attended a “gratefulness service” led by life enrichment aide Adam Wicklum.

Adam led one service for residents of the home’s south side Oct. 9 and another service for north-side residents Oct. 12.

During the services, residents volunteered to read gratitude topics that included a question-and-answer session. This was followed by a prayer read by Adam, who also shared a reflection story about residents being thankful.

Residents also took the time to share with others the things they are most thankful for.

Resident Rev. Marvin McDermott played piano as staff gathered residents into the dining room to set the mood of the non-denominational south-side service. Residents also sang a hymn of thankfulness.

Adam says Rev. McDermott’s piano playing has become a fixture at Riverview Manor.

“He plays piano almost every day, and residents come in on their own to listen,” Adam tells The OMNIway.

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OMNI receives final approvals to begin Woodland Villa redevelopment project

Renovations to expand the home from 111 to 128 beds will begin shortly

OMNI Health Care has taken initial steps towards beginning its redevelopment project to add 17 long-term care beds to Woodland Villa by carrying out preparatory work in anticipation of receiving the final approvals.

The project, which will increase the size of the Cornwall-area long-term care home from 111 beds to 128, is expected to begin shortly and be completed by December 2022, the original target date set when the project’s funding was approved by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care in May 2018.

Several permits and approvals – both at the provincial and municipal level – must be obtained before long-term-care home redevelopment projects can move forward.

Construction was scheduled to start last spring at Woodland Villa; however, the global pandemic caused a setback because plans had to be created to ensure safety measures meeting Ontario’s COVID-19 precautions for workers were in place.

Once completed, the redeveloped Woodland Villa will have four spacious neighbourhoods where residents will live. There will also be wider hallways, more home-like dining and lounge spaces, and privacy for residents will be improved by replacing three- and four-bed wards with one- and two-bed rooms. The new design will also surround two courtyards, and there will be a large common area in the centre.

OMNI Health Care president and CEO Patrick McCarthy says the organization is pleased the redevelopment project is ready to begin.

“We are really happy to be underway and we are looking forward to the new Woodland Villa meeting the new design standards,” he says.

Woodland Villa is one of four OMNI long-term care homes to receive approval for redevelopment funding from the ministry.

Pleasant Meadow Manor has been approved for a redevelopment project to include 35 new beds, Almonte Country Haven will be awarded 17 beds and Country Terrace will be awarded eight new beds.

OMNI has also received ministry approval to build a new 160-bed Riverview Manor in Peterborough’s north end.

Final approvals for the Pleasant Meadow Manor and Almonte Country Haven redevelopment projects are expected to be received in the coming weeks, McCarthy says.

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The fair must go on

After the Norwood Fall Fair was cancelled this year due to the pandemic, the Pleasant Meadow team created their own version of the resident-favourite annual event

Since the Norwood Fall Fair has been cancelled due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, Pleasant Meadow Manor hosted its own version of the annual 152-year-old event on Oct. 13.

Participating in the Norwood Fall Fair has become an important part of the culture at Pleasant Meadow Manor for residents over the years, so the life enrichment team wanted to keep up the tradition, explains Kim Williams, the home’s life enrichment co-ordinator.

“Back in April, when the news that the Norwood fair had been cancelled, I presented the life enrichment team with the idea of holding our own fair day; we decided this would be a fun idea,” she tells The OMNIway.

The Norwood Fall Fair – which started in 1868 and had not been cancelled since the Second World War – features a midway, rides, vendors, and baking and crafts contests.

Every September, the residents start making crafts and baking pies, cookies and pastries for the fair. Virtually every year residents come away with prizes for their crafts and baking entries.

For Pleasant Meadow Manor’s version of the fall fair, the life enrichment team set up the activity room with fun games, including a “milk-the-cow” contest and bobbing for doughnuts.

“This created a lot of laughter from both the residents and staff members,” Kim says, adding the walls were decorated with some animals that would be found at the fair.

There were baking contests for both residents and staff members. Staff member Jeanette Davis won first place in all categories and was named Pleasant Meadow Manor’s Baker of the Year.

Staff served lemonade and baked goods made by the residents for treats, and there was even a candy floss machine.

“The residents said it really smelt like a fair,” Kim says.

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Frost Manor residents make special tree, enjoy turkey dinner to mark Thanksgiving

While it has been a challenging year, residents are still thankful for the important things

Although the global COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging for everyone for the past seven months, Frost Manor residents still feel blessed for many things and took time before the Thanksgiving holiday to reflect on what makes them most grateful.

The result was a paper “Thanksgiving tree” they made as a craft. Each of the leaves contains residents’ thankful thoughts.

“Some of the things they were thankful for were friends, family and thankful for the loving staff – it’s all about the people who are important to them,” Frost Manor life enrichment co-ordinator Lyndsay Burton tells The OMNIway.

Of course, no Thanksgiving would be complete without a traditional meal, so on Monday the nutritional care department served up a roast turkey dinner with all the trimmings, including mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie.

As with all mealtimes since the pandemic began, residents were served Thanksgiving dinner in two seatings for safety. There are also Plexiglas dividers between residents so they can still share meals while adhering to social distancing requirements.

There was also a special Thanksgiving-style bingo where team members gave away treats as prizes. Residents played to win chocolate bars, potato chips, Cheezies, word search books or plastic jewelry.

“It was a different Thanksgiving this year, but the residents still enjoyed it,” Lyndsay says.

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Willows Estate card group thrilled to playing kings in the corner again

After seven months, the group ‘wasted no time’ in starting up again, says LEA

Recently, for the first time since the global COVID-19 pandemic began, a group of dedicated resident card players at Willows Estate were given the green light to resume playing their favourite game, kings in the corner.

“The group hasn’t been able to play together in so long, given the circumstances surrounding the pandemic,” Willows Estate life enrichment aide (LEA) Azaria Kanda tells The OMNIway.

“When our director of care, Allan (Nixon), gave the thumbs-up to gather small groups back to enjoy card night, they wasted no time signing up to join in for a fun playtime.”

Azaria says playing cards has many benefits for residents of the Aurora, Ont. long-term care home.

“Beyond being a fun pastime, it is also a time for this group particularly to catch up on various happenings in their lives, family, friends, and of course, a little dose of gossip,” Azaria says with a chuckle.

The group recently welcomed a new member into the fold, resident Anthony Smallman. While Anthony had not played kings in the corner before, the residents who are more seasoned in its rules have been taking time to teach him, and his progress is coming along, Azaria says.

“The group, which is predominantly ladies, has been instrumental in not only teaching Anthony the game but also patiently allowing him to learn it, Azaria says.

“He now plays it like a pro and looks forward to playing with the bunch.”

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Pandemic has highlighted the need for LTC home redevelopment, says OMNI CEO

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted more than ever the need for more spacious, modern long-term care homes in Ontario, says OMNI Health Care president and CEO Patrick McCarthy.

OMNI and other Ontario long-term care providers have been advocating for a program to redevelop older long-term care homes for more than a decade.

While there have been strides to make this happen, limited funding, increasing land and construction costs, lengthy approval processes and other factors continue to present barriers to operators seeking to rebuild and renovate long-term care homes in communities across Ontario, McCarthy says.

“Steps have been taken to address that situation, but we need this work to continue; we need to remove the barriers that are holding back the redevelopment of homes to provide safer, more comfortable space for residents,” McCarthy says.

In 2018, the Ontario government announced a plan to redevelop older long-term care homes and to develop 15,000 additional long-term care beds in the province.

The initial bed awards included upgrades and expansion to four OMNI homes – Country Terrace, Pleasant Meadow Manor, Woodland Villa and Almonte Country Haven – as well as a rebuild for a new 160-bed Riverview Manor in Peterborough.

Construction is expected to begin for three of these homes in the very near future.

Once these homes are redeveloped, they will be organized into smaller resident home areas, providing more space and amenities and quieter, more home-like dining and lounge spaces.

These new and redeveloped homes will also see the elimination of three- and four-bed wards, which will not only deliver residents more privacy, but also greater safety in the event of outbreaks.

Due to the pandemic, Ontario long-term care homes are not currently admitting new residents to three- or four-bed wards, a move which McCarthy says OMNI supports.

Funding to support this policy to the end of the year has been an important factor in maintaining stability and staff retention.  However, it is important that the policy be extended beyond the end of the year to maintain that stability, he adds.

“This policy provides for greater space amongst the residents and reduces the risk of transmission,” McCarthy says.

“It has been shown that there is a correlation between outbreaks that occurred during the first round of COVID and the age of homes, so it’s important for the government to ensure the policy and related funding is maintained.”

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