Conversations with residents a highlight of student’s Village Green placement

‘They have years and years of experience and stories that they love to tell and love to talk about,’ says Griffin Newton

Griffin Newton says his favourite part of his two-month student placement at Village Green was the time he spent getting to know the Greater Napanee long-term care home’s residents.

Griffin, a Grade 13 student at Napanee District Secondary School, recently completed his co-op placement at Village Green. The experience has helped shape his career path, and he has applied to Loyalist College’s recreation and leisure program for the September intake.

As part of his placement, Griffin spent much of his time helping with activities and playing games or reading newspapers with residents.

It was through the time he spent with residents that Griffin says he learned a great deal about the people living at Village Green.

“They have years and years of experience and stories that they love to tell and love to talk about,” Griffin says.

“If you are a people person, they love to talk and they love to talk with you because their stories have been a big, monumental part of their lives and you have to be able to listen.”

One memorable moment for Griffin came when he was reading a newspaper with residents. Walter Gretzky, the father of NHL legend Wayne Gretzky, had recently passed away and there was an article about the world’s most famous hockey dad.

It turned out one of the residents knew the elder Gretzky many years ago.

“When (the resident) knew him, he sold cheese back in the day, and the other residents didn’t know that, so that was one of the great stories I heard,” Griffin says.

Griffin, who has also been working as a front-door screener during the pandemic, says having these conversations gave him “a new perspective” on people living at Village Green. Hearing about their stories and experiences was a chance to get to know them on a different level.

“I also love working there and being down there and interacting with the residents and, right now, taking their mind off of everything, especially with COVID,” he says.

– This is Part 2 of a two-part story

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Latest Country Terrace Diners Club meal has unexpected positive result

One resident who has not been eating much lately ‘cleaned her entire plate’ when served a special meal of ribs and chicken

The Country Terrace Diners Club always proves to be a big hit with the Komoka, Ont. long-term care home’s residents, but the latest special meal prepared by the nutritional care team garnered an unexpected result.

One resident who was on the guest list at the April 23 dinner had not had much of an appetite recently and was not finishing her meals.

But when the resident was served the meal of pork ribs, chicken wings, onion rings, fries, coleslaw and pineapple upside-down cake “she cleaned her entire plate,” says nutritional care manager Alex Achillini.

“It was very nice to see her eating everything,” Alex tells The OMNIway, adding results like this underscore the value the Diners Club has for residents.

The Diners Club is being hosted for small groups of residents in a rotation. Alex and the nutritional care team members create a menu featuring foods residents enjoy. Residents are served the meals in a way one would expect from a top-notch restaurant.

Due to restrictions in place to keep everyone safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is currently no large-group programming. To ensure all residents can enjoy a Diners Club meal, the program is offered in one area of the home every two weeks, with no more than six residents participating at a time.

As with every Diners Club meal, the food Alex and the nutritional care team served was prepared from scratch, just the way residents like it.

Alex says for the next Diners Club meal, residents will have the choice of beef tenderloin or seafood pasta.

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Unique partnership between Country Haven and CDSBEO is attracting needed PSWs to LTC

Instructor Anita Plunkett commends the ‘win-win’ collaboration

A partnership between Almonte Country Haven and the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario (CDSBEO) is bringing much-needed personal support workers (PSWs) to the long-term care sector.

To date, six Almonte Country Haven PSWs have graduated from a PSW training program offered by CDSBEO and three more people who are doing their training through the partnership are enrolled this semester. That spells good news for long-term care in the local community, says CDSBEO PSW program instructor Anita Plunkett.

Since early 2020, Almonte Country Haven has participated in the PSW training program offered CDSBEO and supported by the Canadian Career Academy (CCA), an employment agency.

The CDSBEO offers the PSW training program at a comparatively low cost. The CCA has partnered with CDSBEO to cover a portion of students’ tuition through the Canada-Ontario Job Grant (COJG). Students are also permitted to earn money while completing their work placement hours.

Students who are doing their placement at Almonte Country Haven, an 82-bed long-term care home in Lanark County, have the remaining portion of their tuition covered through OMNI Health Care’s bursary program.

“When we first started (the partnership) there was a uniqueness in that, at the time, (the CDSBEO) had not really connected with a home where the home was hiring students while they were in training and connecting them with the Canada-Ontario Job Grant,” Plunkett tells The OMNIway.

“We had not developed that type of relationship with (a long-term care home) up until that point.”

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, Plunkett says there has been a “huge focus on long-term care and the work that PSWs do,” and this makes the Country Haven-CDSBEO partnership timely.

Plunkett says the school board has since connected with other long-term care homes and home-care agencies in the region to help them attract and provide people with PSW training.

The seeds of the collaboration were planted when Almonte Country Haven contacted Plunkett to see if any students in the PSW program were interested in doing a placement at the home.

From there, the CCA was contacted to work out a deal where the employment agency would cover a portion of the students’ tuition through the COJG.

“It’s a three-way connection to get people trained and working at Almonte Country Haven,” Plunkett says.

“Almonte Country Haven is looking for employees, and we can provide the training, so it’s a win-win on both sides.”

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Staff members’ creativity keeping quality of life high in OMNI homes

Providing residents living in OMNI Health Care’s 18 long-term care homes with a high quality of life is central to the organization’s mission, and this has been especially important during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Team members working in OMNI homes have been consistently finding creative solutions to keep residents happy during this challenging time, a true testament to their dedication to the residents they serve.

In late March, Frost Manor hosted its annual Tropical Day, which proved to be a big hit with residents and staff members alike.

One of the major highlights of the event was the environmental services team dressing up in seashell-top bikinis, grass skirts and leis and doing a Hawaiian dance through the dining rooms during breakfast, a gesture that received a round of applause from residents and their fellow staff members.

With restrictions in place to keep everyone safe during the pandemic, the team wanted to bring some extra fun and laughter to everyone to keep spirits up, says Frost Manor environmental services and maintenance manager Rick Riel.

“There was much-needed laughter and funny comments,” he says.

Burnbrae Gardens life enrichment aide Shawna Booth has created a multifaceted music program called Music Appreciation that has been successful at engaging residents in an activity that combines music, exercise and reminiscing.

The program, which Shawna hosts once a week, always has a different theme. The program has even attracted residents who often don’t participate in activities.

Residents gather in small, physically distanced groups while music is played. Often, Shawna leads residents in exercises they can do standing or sitting.

“Sometimes we do activities where residents can dance in their chair for exercise where there are movements to go along with the songs, (and) sometimes we will play songs that will get residents reminiscing,” Shawna says, adding residents recently enjoyed reminiscing about songs they remembered hearing at weddings and other events.

In mid-February, West Lake Terrace hosted an activity week that was highlighted by team members turning the dining room into a 1950s-style diner.

The menu featured items such as burgers, hot dogs, fries and onion rings, and everything was served in baskets lined with checkered paper. There were ice-cream sundaes for dessert and cherry cola to wash everything down.

For life enrichment co-ordinator Janie Denard, the 1950s theme day was the pinnacle of a week of fun events that aimed to blow away the winter blues.

“We really wanted to be creative this year to come up with activities that would help both the residents and the staff beat the blahs this year,” she says.

Village Green placement steers student towards LTC career

‘I did a two-month placement there and fell in love with it’

Griffin Newton was no stranger to Village Green when he started a two-month co-op placement at the Greater Napanee long-term care home earlier this year.

His mother, Tammy Newton, is Village Green’s clinical care co-ordinator, and Griffin has been familiar with the home from an early age.

So when it came time for Griffin, a Grade 13 student at Napanee District Secondary School, to do his co-op placement, his mother suggested he consider Village Green, where Griffin also works as a front-door screener.

Tammy saw in Griffin a key strength that’s valuable in long-term care work: his ability to connect with people.

“She came up with the idea of my going back and making a connection (at Village Green) because she said I was always good at interacting with other people and helping others, so why not try that out,” Griffin tells The OMNIway.

“I did a two-month placement there and fell in love with it.”

During his placement, Griffin spent much of his time working with the life enrichment department helping out with activities.

He enjoyed the experience so much he plans to make a career out of it.

Griffin, who will complete his high-school studies this year, has applied to the recreation and leisure program at Loyalist College for the September intake.

Graduates of this program often go on to work in life enrichment departments at long-term care and retirement homes.

One idea he came up with during his placement was to draw a cartoon animal on the whiteboard every morning as well as to write a pun.

“He did this every day because the residents liked the first one so much,” says Ulana Orrick, Village Green’s life enrichment co-ordinator, who adds Griffin is well suited for this line of work.

Griffin says doing his placement at Village Green wasn’t so much “work” as it was learning about the home’s residents.

“It wasn’t a job for me, it was getting a chance to hang around with a group of interesting people I had not met before,” he says.

– This is Part 1 of a two-part story

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Forest Hill’s life enrichment team has created an innovative way to host safe bingo games

Residents were missing their favourite activity, so staff figured out how to bring it back to them

Bingo is a favourite activity among Forest Hill residents, and with no large-group activities being hosted at the Ottawa-area long-term care home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the life enrichment team has found a way to deliver the game in a way that meets safety protocols.

Life enrichment co-ordinator Craig Forrest and his team have been gathering small groups of residents on each of Forest Hill’s five floors every Thursday.

Residents are each handed a bingo card. Life enrichment team members are given walkie-talkies. The bingo caller will announce the balls as they come up. As the numbers come through on the two-way radios, life enrichment staff on all floors will help residents mark their cards.

“If a bingo is called on one floor, everyone will hold until we check the numbers,” Craig explains. “We keep track of who won and then we go around delivering prizes afterwards.”

While this may be an unorthodox way for bingo to be played, it has been a big hit with residents, Craig says.

“This has really worked well because (bingo) is one thing the residents were really missing.”

Craig says a major benefit from holding bingo games using this method is that the life enrichment team can engage many residents on all floors while adhering to safety protocols in place.

“We’ve been doing this once a week and it has been working well,” he says. “The residents really enjoy it and look forward to it.”

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PSW reflects on career change that brought her to Almonte Country Haven

‘I absolutely love it here,’ says Tracie Boyd

After the COVID-19 pandemic put an end to Tracie Boyd’s 25-year career as a daycare provider, she was ready to embark on a career working in long-term care.

Even before the pandemic, Tracie says she had been considering a new career in long-term care. When she saw an advertisement for a personal support worker (PSW) training program provided by the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario (CDSBEO), she decided to take a step towards starting a second career.

During her first day of training last September, Tracie met three Almonte Country Haven team members: Tiffany Brydge, Rebekah Lafontaine and Sheila Warren.

They explained to her that Almonte Country Haven was involved with a partnership with CDSBEO and that if she was interested in working at the Lanark County long-term care home, she would be paid for her on-the-job training and promised a position at Country Haven upon completing the course.

The PSW training program is supported by the Canadian Career Academy (CCA). The CCA covers a portion of the program’s tuition fees. Students who are doing their placement at Almonte Country Haven have the remainder of their tuition paid for through OMNI Health Care’s bursary fund.

Tracie took the opportunity. She graduated from the PSW program in February and says she has not looked back on her decision.

“I absolutely love it here,” Tracie says of working at Almonte Country Haven.

“Everybody has been so good to me. The residents are great and all the employees and managers are great. They are very family-oriented.”

Tracie adds that the PSW training program was well-rounded, informative and she would recommend it to anyone considering a career as a PSW.

Administrator Carolyn Della Foresta says Tracie has been an outstanding member of the Almonte Country Haven team who has “found her passion and her calling” working in long-term care.

Carolyn adds that one of Tracie’s key strengths is her ability to provide residents with supportive measures, and that she would make an excellent member of the home’s Behavioural Supports Ontario (BSO) team.

“She has a gentle spirit and has such a calming influence on residents,” Carolyn says.

“Tracie is somebody who I would love to see pursue further behavioural support work and training because I think she would be an amazing addition to the (BSO team) that we have in the home.”

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Village Green residents treated to a jungle safari without leaving home

Safari Day was beneficial to residents on many levels

Village Green residents were recently treated to an African safari that included a tour where they spotted different animals and learned about several creatures that live in a jungle habitat.

The activity, which was held on April 6, began with the life enrichment team hosting an educational program on Kenyan folklore in the morning.

Later, the life enrichment team and co-op placement student Griffin Newton led residents through the Greater Napanee long-term care home on the safari to search out the variety of “animals” that were made from pieces of cardboard cut into the shapes of different creatures and then painted by Griffin and his family.

The animals were created with “amazing” detail, notes Village Green life enrichment co-ordinator Ulana Orrick.

“Griffin has an immense artistic talent, and over the Easter weekend he and his family created all of these different animals by hand,” Ulana says.

Residents and their safari guides walked through Village Green looking for tigers, gazelles and other animals that one may spot on a safari.

As soon as an animal was spotted by residents, a life enrichment team member would provide information about the creature.

The safari ended in the home’s sunroom where there was a cardboard cut-out of a Jeep that served as a prop for residents to have their photos taken with.

The fun continued after the safari when residents were treated to a Kenyan-themed pub afternoon where they enjoyed drinks and special food made by team members.

The food included pigs-in-a-blanket – dubbed “boar in a blanket” – as well as a chutney and tropical fruit.

The day ended with residents learning how to play mancala, a strategy-based board game that originated in Africa.

Ulana says the activities from Safari Day met residents’ needs on many levels. Aside from being fun and educational for residents, the day also had social aspects and also proved to be a way to get people exercising.

“Walking in the halls, they were exercising without even realizing it,” Ulana says.

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Pen-pal program connecting Forest Hill residents with local families

‘The letters to residents have been fantastic’

Sending e-mails may be the preferred way to correspond in the 21st century, but a group of Forest Hill residents and a family member and her acquaintances have been bringing back some old-time letter-writing as part of a pen-pal program.

It all started about three months ago when the daughter of a resident approached Craig Forrest, the Kanata, Ont. long-term care home’s life enrichment co-ordinator, to let him know she had other family members and friends who were interested in corresponding with residents.

Craig liked the idea and soon residents were receiving letters. About seven residents decided they wanted to write back to the people who had sent them letters, and the pen-pal program was born.

At the time of this writing, there have been three rounds of residents receiving letters and residents sending replies.

The families will write about themselves and their children. They will also send pictures of their families to residents, “and that has meant a lot to our residents,” Craig says.

Residents will write about their history, their own families, their hobbies and what they enjoyed doing as children, he adds.

With large-group programs on hold due to restrictions in place to keep everyone safe during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the pen-pal program has been a safe way to bring a meaningful activity to residents, Craig says.

“The letters to residents have been fantastic,” Craig says. “It has been going really, really well.”

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PHOTO CAPTION: Forest Hill resident Marilyn Orr poses with the first letter she received through the home’s pen-mal program.

EDITORIAL: Despite pandemic, things are looking up in 2021

Although we have entered the third wave of COVID-19, and despite the challenges we continue to face as health-care providers in the midst of a pandemic, there are many positive things to report in the first quarter of 2021.

The best news for OMNI Health Care so far this year has been the arrival of vaccines to help protect our long-term-care home residents and staff members against the highly contagious COVID-19 virus.

Most residents living in OMNI’s 18 long-term care homes have now received both required doses of the vaccines, and staff vaccinations are also well underway.

Since January, when the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines became available, OMNI homes and local public health units have shown outstanding collaboration to ensure every resident wishing to be immunized received the vaccine.

While vigilance will continue to be required, with the vast majority of OMNI residents now vaccinated we have taken a huge step forward on the path back to normality.

There has also been some great news this year with respect to the redevelopment of OMNI homes.

Most recently, the Ontario government announced that funding has been approved to build a new 192-bed long-term care home in Cobourg to replace Streamway Villa.

Streamway Villa is the latest OMNI long-term care home to receive approval for redevelopment. There are six other homes that have now been approved for redevelopment, and construction is well underway at three of these homes: Almonte Country Haven, Pleasant Meadow Manor and Woodland Villa.

Redevelopment projects to renovate Country Terrace and build a new Riverview Manor in Peterborough will also begin this year, while the first phase of planning for the construction of a new Village Green in Greater Napanee will also begin.

Through all the ups and downs the past year has brought, the people working in our long-term care homes continue to be stalwart supporters of residents.

With changing circumstances throughout the pandemic, residents have had to adapt to the challenges that come with safety restrictions, but they have been supported along the way by staff members who have shown their love and kindness at every turn.

Through the creative programs they design that meet safety requirements, to organizing safe visits with families, to one-to-one time they spend with residents who need someone to talk with, the people working in our homes have, perhaps more than ever, been living OMNI’s mission of bringing hope, purpose and belonging to health care.

While these may be challenging times, there’s a lot to be thankful for.