‘Golden Girls’ find new home at Forest Hill

Three guinea pigs, who have become permanent guests at the home, were each named after a character from the hit TV series

Forest Hill recently welcomed Golden Girls Dorothy, Blanche and Rose as permanent guests.

But these aren’t the famed television Golden Girls you’re probably thinking of but rather three guinea pigs who have been adopted by the Kanata, Ont. long-term care home, thanks to a collaboration with Guinea Pig Rescue Ottawa.

Guinea Pig Rescue Ottawa, a shelter for guinea pigs needing homes, launched a project to help bring the small animals to long-term care homes to serve as therapy pets.

Forest Hill is the first long-term care home to partner with the shelter.

“We just happened to contact them at the right time because that was when they were starting this initiative,” life enrichment co-ordinator Craig Forrest tells The OMNIway.

“We were the first home for them to try this with.”

The shelter provided Forest Hill with the guinea pigs as well as two cages – a large one that houses the Golden Girls and a smaller one for transporting the pets between floors.

Hay, water bottles and food dishes were also provided at no cost. To thank the charity, Forest Hill made a donation to help Guinea Pig Rescue Ottawa continue its service.

Craig says residents are enjoying their new housemates, who moved to Forest Hill shortly after Golden Girls cast member Betty White passed away on Dec. 31, aged 99.

White, who played Rose Nylund on the hit TV show, was a renowned animal welfare advocate, so residents and staff decided to name the guinea pigs after three of the Golden Girls characters, Craig says.

Craig notes the guinea pigs get excited at feeding time and make chirping noises, which residents get a kick out of.

“Residents congregate around the guinea pigs – they really enjoy seeing them, especially around feeding time or when they are getting treats,” he says.

“It has been a really big success so far and the residents have really enjoyed it.”

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PHOTO CAPTION: Forest Hill resident Ieta Van Heukelom is pictured here with guinea pigs Rose and Dorothy.

Forest Hill LE team applauded for maximizing resident engagement, helping others during pandemic

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the life enrichment team at Forest Hill has worked hard to maximize resident engagement in programming as well as stepping in to help other departments.

Craig Forrest, the Kanata, Ont. long-term care home’s life enrichment co-ordinator, says the life enrichment team has especially concentrated on increasing one-to-one programming for residents during the past 23 months since the pandemic was declared.

Additionally, with programming limited to residents on one floor at a time, more residents have been attending activities.

Oftentimes, residents would not leave their home area to attend a program, but if the programming was held in their area they will attend, Craig says.

The result of this effort has been an increased number of residents participating in programming.

“Our activity participation has actually gone up during the pandemic, and it’s mainly due to that fact,” Craig tells The OMNIway.

Planning and carrying out large-group programming consumes a fair amount of time for team members, so not having large-group programming is allowing staff to concentrate on one-to-one time, he adds.

Additionally, life enrichment team members have been able to help their colleagues in other departments, especially environmental services, Craig says.

Throughout the pandemic, sanitizing high-touch areas, such as handrails, light switches, telephones and door handles, has been highly increased.

On top of the extra attention the environmental services team members are paying to disinfecting these areas, the life enrichment team has pitched in to bolster these infection control measures, Craig says.

“The (environmental services) staff is doing their job, but they have such a heavy workload and with (life enrichment staff) helping them when they can, it makes a difference,” he says.

“Wherever they’re needed they will go to help out.”

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RSAs commended for their contribution to Forest Hill during the pandemic

Residents are getting more one-to-one time and staff members have a more manageable workload, thanks to the resident support aide program

Craig Forrest, the life enrichment co-ordinator at Forest Hill, is commending the positive difference resident support aides (RSAs) have made to both residents and staff members at the Ottawa-area long-term care home during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

RSAs are working at many Ontario long-term care homes. RSAs are helping with a variety of tasks at Forest Hill, including spending one-to-one time with residents, putting away laundry, clearing tables after meals and assisting life enrichment departments with programming.

Through the work they do, RSAs are ensuring more social time is spent individually with residents. Staff members are benefiting from having their workloads lightened by the RSAs, and this allows them to concentrate more on resident care.

Through a partnership with The Ottawa Hospital, the RSAs at Forest Hill are recruited and trained. RSAs at Forest Hill are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and meet all the requirements needed for their work.

The Ontario government launched the RSA program in November 2020 to alleviate the burden caused by staffing shortages in the province’s long-term care homes that were made more challenging by the pandemic.

Craig says the Forest Hill RSAs, who have been at the home almost since the program began, have been benefiting everyone.

“This has been a great program for Forest Hill,” Craig tells The OMNIway. “They (the RSAs) are very helpful to us and very beneficial to the residents.”

There are five floors at Forest Hill and the RSAs working at the home are assigned to individual floors, which helps them build a rapport with residents.

Craig says the increased one-to-one time for residents has been the most beneficial aspect of the RSA program, adding that last summer the RSAs spent lots of outdoor time with residents on the patio if staff members or their families weren’t available.

“It has been a really good program,” he says.

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PHOTO CAPTION:  Pictured above, Forest Hill resident support aide Aiden Rollin spends time with resident Shirley Parker.

New game system helps Forest Hill residents through outbreak

Touch2Play system helps keep quality of life high for residents by offering a myriad of games and activities

Life enrichment co-ordinator Craig Forrest had a feeling the residents of Forest Hill would benefit from a Touch2Play game and activity system, and he would be proven right.

The Kanata, Ont. long-term care home recently purchased the touch-screen gaming system, which contains more than 70 games and puzzles for residents to enjoy, including word searches, connect-the-dots activities, memory activities, crosswords, chess, bowling and garden-building activities.

When the home went into an outbreak recently, the Touch2Play proved to be a valuable tool for keeping residents happy and their quality of life high, Craig tells The OMNIway.

The Touch2Play is mounted on a cart and can be brought to residents in their rooms when they wish to use it. The unit can be adapted to be used by people in sitting, standing or lying positions.

“You can use it for people in bed, you can use it for people in chairs, you can use it for people who are standing, you can manoeuvre it around, and it is very user friendly,” Craig says.

“We were on outbreak recently and residents were confined to their rooms, so it was really good for that situation because we could bring it right into the residents’ rooms.”

Craig adds that the Touch2Play system is stainless steel and can easily be sanitized from top to bottom before and after each use.

Craig says he got the idea to get the system for Forest Hill residents after reading an OMNIway article in 2021 about the success Springdale Country Manor had with a Touch2Play.

“I talked with a couple of other homes that have them and they raved about them and said the residents loved them, so I thought I would give it a try,” he says.

“Long story short, the residents really do love it. … It has really helped our residents during the pandemic.”

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PHOTO CAPTION: Forest Hill resident Paul Morin is pictured here playing a word-search game on the home’s Touch2Play system.

All Forest Hill residents had gifts to open Christmas Day, thanks to annual initiative

Angel Tree program was once again a ‘huge success’

An annual program organized by Forest Hill to ensure every resident of the Kanata, Ont. long-term care home receives a Christmas present to open Dec. 25 was once again a “huge success,” says life enrichment co-ordinator Craig Forrest.

Every year, Forest Hill puts up the Angel Tree in the home. The Angel Tree is a Christmas tree that is covered with numbered tags representing every resident.

Family members, staff members and visitors are invited to take one of the numbered tags to buy presents for the resident each number on the tag corresponds with. The tags are always numbered for privacy and also include a list of gift ideas for residents.

Craig says the 100-plus tags on the tree were all gone within three days. As with past years, parishioners from nearby Trinity Presbyterian Church strongly supported the Angel Tree project, Craig says, adding church members took 80 tags.

In 2020, due to pandemic restrictions in place at the time, the Angel Tree was offered virtually through Google Docs.

This past Christmas, thanks to essential caregivers and limited general visitors being allowed inside the home before Christmas, Forest Hill once again set up the Angel Tree by the main entrance.

Craig says team members from the life enrichment department made sure the gifts got to the residents on Christmas Day.

“The life enrichment staff were able to deliver each resident a gift on Christmas Day and would spend some time with them helping open their gift and reminiscing about Christmases past,” he says.

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PHOTO CAPTION: Pictured above, Forest Hill life enrichment aide Sara MacFarlane and resident Margaret Hall on Christmas Day.

Family member sings Forest Hill’s praises

‘They are family to me, that’s for sure’

Pam Curzon doesn’t skip a beat when asked what staff members at Forest Hill mean to her.

“They are family to me, that’s for sure,” she recently told The OMNIway.

Pam’s father, Bill Bennett, was a resident at the Kanata, Ont. long-term care home. After Bill moved to Forest Hill, Pam became involved with many of the home’s activities and programs.

When Pam visited her dad, she would take time to help staff members with activities, such as calling bingo numbers, and she often lent a hand on resident outings. When Forest Hill hosted its annual chili cook-off, Pam always entered the contest.

Bill passed away in 2019; however, Pam has stayed connected to Forest Hill, and she isn’t shy when it comes to sharing her feelings about the people who work at the home.

“They deserve all the credit in the world,” she says. “I tell people about (Forest Hill) all the time and sing the staff’s praises. The staff are amazing. They make families so welcomed.”

Pam continued to volunteer at Forest Hill after her dad passed away – until the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020. Once volunteers can return, Pam says she plans to go right back to helping residents and staff members.

Additionally, Pam is involved with Forest Hill through her church, Trinity Presbyterian.

During the holiday season, Forest Hill has a Christmas tree – called the Angel Tree – in the lobby. The tree is normally covered with numbered tags that visitors take. Each number corresponds to a resident and the gifts they need. For privacy, each tag is anonymous, so the person buying the gift doesn’t know who will be on the receiving end.

Last Christmas, due to pandemic protocols in place, the Angel Tree was in the form of a Google Doc, and people could sign up for “tags” that were on the virtual Angel Tree. Members of Trinity Presbyterian Church play a large part in making this event successful.

This Christmas the Angel Tree will be back and Pam says Trinity Presbyterian Church will be participating in the project again.

“We are going to be doing this again – it’s our fourth year – and I’m looking forward to it,” she says.

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Forest Hill resident’s love of Halloween lives on

Bill Bennett would always win the award for best costume at Forest Hill’s annual Halloween party, and that award has been renamed in his honour

Bill Bennett absolutely loved Halloween.

As a Forest Hill resident, he looked forward to the big costume party the Kanata, Ont. long-term care home hosted every Halloween, and he would always show up in a highly creative outfit.

At every Halloween party there was a contest to pick the best costume, and every year Bill won top honours.

Bill and his daughter, Pam Curzon, would work on his costume in the weeks leading up to the party, and the two “would go all out” to make sure Bill had a winning entry each year, says Forest Hill life enrichment co-ordinator Craig Forrest.

While Bill passed away in 2019, his love of Halloween is vividly remembered by people living and working at Forest Hill, so team members have renamed the award for best costume in his honour.

The Annual Bill Bennett Award for Best Costume was presented for the first time on Oct. 29 following Forest Hill’s first Halloween party in two years.

Pam and her sister, Nancy Dunham, were on hand to present the award, dressed in their Halloween costumes, of course. But when it came time to make the presentation, the award was handed to the sisters.

“It was only fitting that Bill’s daughters received the award for the first time,” Craig tells The OMNIway.

Pam and Nancy then presented the award to the other winner, resident Shirley Sutherland.

Pam says she and Nancy were touched by Forest Hill’s thoughtfulness in naming the award after their father.

“It was just such an honour, and Shirley was just so excited,” Pam says. “Shirley is a wonderful lady who is full of joy, so it was a great honour for Nancy and I to do this. … It felt like we were at home at Forest Hill.”

Pam says her dad would be happy to know the best costume award has been renamed in his honour.

“We really love Halloween in our family, and we really, really get into the spirit,” she says. “We always had such great fun with daddy, and he would giggle and get so excited when we would put together his costume.”

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Trivia and small celebrations mark Residents’ Council Week at Forest Hill

Trivia to reinforce the important role residents’ councils play in long-term care homes as well as small celebrations to honour residents who advocate for themselves and others marked the second annual Residents’ Council Week at Forest Hill.

Residents’ Council Week was Sept. 13-19.

The week, organized by the Ontario Association of Residents’ Councils (OARC), aims to raise awareness of the role residents’ councils play in long-term care homes.

Forest Hill life enrichment co-ordinator Craig Forrest organized a week-long trivia for team members focused on residents’ councils and the Residents’ Bill of Rights.

Staff members at the Kanata, Ont. long-term care home were asked questions to test their knowledge about councils and about the bill of rights. They submitted their answers to Craig.

The three staff members with the most correct answers will be awarded gift cards in the coming days.

Craig says the idea behind the trivia contest was to help keep the Residents’ Bill of Rights top of mind and to reinforce the importance of residents’ councils in long-term care homes.

“There are a few questions they’ll definitely have to look up, and this is a way to get them learning more about the Residents’ Bill of Rights as well as our residents’ council,” Craig tells The OMNIway.

On Sept. 17, there were small celebrations among residents and staff on each floor of Forest Hill, with cookies, tea and coffee offered to everyone.

OARC explains the crucial part councils play in the lives of long-term-care home residents.

“(Residents’ councils) bring residents together as peers to discuss issues of importance and to stay connected and engaged in home operations and decision-making,” the website states.

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Corn roast tradition returns to Forest Hill

With changes in place to ensure pandemic protocols were met, residents once again partook in a favourite end-of-summer event

The tradition of the end-of-summer corn roast returned to Forest Hill in late August.

Residents of the Kanata, Ont. long-term care home once again enjoyed fresh corn on the cob during the annual Forest Hill corn roast after skipping a year due to pandemic restrictions in place at the time.

With more flexibility this year, life enrichment co-ordinator Craig Forrest was eager to organize a corn roast this year.

“I didn’t want the residents to go without fresh corn this year,” he tells The OMNIway.

Normally, the corn roast attracts about 80 Forest Hill residents and their family members. Current safety protocols require family members to wear masks at all times while visiting the home. Because people need to remove their masks to eat, family members were unable to join residents at this year’s corn roast.

To ensure the corn roast could be held this year, adjustments were made and required safety protocols were followed. Rather than having residents living on all five floors of the home attend the corn roast at the same time, smaller corn roasts were held outdoors for each floor.

The first corn roast was for residents from the third floor on Aug. 30. Craig picked up 120 cobs of corn and barbecued pork riblets. Residents living on the third floor had their corn roast outside and entertainment was provided, with remaining cobs and riblets being served to residents inside the home.

Live music has been provided at each corn roast, with entertainers performing from a safe distance.

A major plus has been co-operation from mother nature during the corn roasts, Craig says.

“The weather has been fantastic, and, thankfully it hasn’t been too hot,” he says. “We have really lucked out with the weather.”

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PHOTO CAPTION: Forest Hill resident Phillip Bruce enjoys a corn cob during a recent corn roast at the Kanata, Ont. long-term care home.

Forest Hill’s resident-centred culture shines through for family member

Judy Wood, who is now an essential caregiver for her mother at the home, says she sees first-hand the lengths staff goes to for residents

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Judy Wood says one thing has been clear for her about the people working at Forest Hill: they are focused on providing the best care possible for residents.

Judy’s mother has been a resident at the Kanata, Ont. long-term care home for about three years. When the pandemic began in March 2020, Judy says staff members immediately made sure residents and their families kept in touch through frequent phone calls and video conferencing sessions.

“We could see that they really cared for the residents and they felt the challenges that exist when loved ones are not able to visit and give (residents) that social connection and how important it is for the residents,” she tells The OMNIway.

As an essential caregiver who is often at Forest Hill with her mother, Judy says she sees the Forest Hill team providing high-level care to residents every time she is at the home.

“The people there care,” Judy says. “The nursing staff will go out of their way to bring things to residents, to talk to residents. They make sure that there is one-on-one time with each resident.”

Once family members of Ontario long-term-care home residents were able to become designated essential caregivers for their loved ones, Judy says she “jumped at the chance.”

Becoming an essential caregiver meant Judy could regularly visit her mother at Forest Hill after meeting all the requirements.

After many months of not being able to see her mother in person at Forest Hill, Judy says being an essential caregiver for her mom has been comforting.

“Just to be able to spend time with my mom, to chat with her, to bring her in her favourite candy, or telling her about what the rest of the family has been doing, has meant a lot,” she says.

Judy says being an essential caregiver for her mother has also provided opportunities to become closer with the Forest Hill staff members.

“We are all experiencing (the pandemic) together – (the staff) also have a home life with families and (the pandemic) has been affecting them too,” she says.

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