Forest Hill resident and Grade 8 student connect through their love of reading

Retired teacher Barbara Brownhill and student Ethan Fletcher have been enjoying books together over Zoom calls

Forest Hill resident Barbara Brownhill has been having video conferencing sessions with a local student that provides a forum for the two to share their love of reading.

For the past two months, Barbara will sit at a desk, open a tablet the Ottawa-area long-term care home’s staff members provide and join Grade 8 student Ethan Fletcher for Zoom calls on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 3:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Craig Forrest, the home’s life enrichment co-ordinator, says he received an e-mail from Ethan in early February. The student explained he wanted to have Zoom calls with a resident who enjoyed literature, and Craig immediately thought of Barbara.

The two are a perfect fit for this one-to-one intergenerational program, Craig says. Ethan is a student who enjoys reading, and Barbara, who also enjoys books, is a retired teacher.

“He’s really good with Barbara,” he says of Ethan, adding the student is currently reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to Barbara.

When new characters are introduced in the book, Ethan will stop and explain who they are, and he and Barbara will chat about how they fit into the plot.

Forest Hill, like OMNI Health Care’s other long-term care homes, has been working to build stronger community connections in recent years.

The connection between Barbara and Ethan is an example of a “win-win” success that intergenerational programming can bring, Craig says.

“For Ethan, he’s helping Barbara, and Barbara gets to go back to being in a teacher role where she helps him with his reading, so it’s a big success,” he says.

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PHOTO CUTLINE:    Forest Hill resident Barbara Brownhill is seen here having a Zoom call with Grade 8 student Ethan Fletcher. The two have been enjoying books together through conferencing calls since February.

With safety top of mind, Forest Hill residents celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

Life enrichment team’s ingenuity helped make the event a big hit with residents

Instead of having a big St. Patrick’s Day party at Forest Hill this year, there were five smaller events to celebrate all things Irish – with social distancing and other safety precautions in full effect, of course.

Like with many long-term care homes, St. Patrick’s Day is a big affair at Forest Hill. Before the COVID-19 pandemic began, a typical Forest Hill St. Patrick’s Day party included entertainers performing Celtic music and large-group pub events.

However, due to restrictions in place to keep everyone safe during the ongoing pandemic, this year’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration could not include large-group gatherings or live entertainment.

But by using their ingenuity, life enrichment team members were able to organize simultaneous St. Patrick’s Day celebrations that met safety protocols on each of the Ottawa-area long-term care home’s five floors.

“Unfortunately, we couldn’t have live music, but we did have Irish and Celtic music CDs here, so we put on lots of music for residents,” explains Craig Forrest, Forest Hill’s life enrichment co-ordinator.

“Gatherings (on each floor) had to be smaller, but we still had the music, the non-alcoholic green beer and other drinks, and lots of food.”

Residents were also provided with St. Patrick’s Day outfits, such as green hats, to wear in the spirit of the day, Craig notes.

Even with social distancing in place and no large-group activities, residents still had a lot of fun on March 17, thanks to the work life enrichment aides put into the day, Craig says.

“The life enrichment aides here are really good, and the residents on each floor really enjoyed (the celebration) – it was a lot of fun for them,” he says.

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Local community brings Christmas cheer to Forest Hill

Letters, cards and a video of Girl Guides singing carols were sent to residents during the holidays

Although it was a different kind of Christmas at Forest Hill due to restrictions in place to keep residents and staff members safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, the local community helped make the holiday season brighter for the Ottawa-area long-term care home’s residents.

St. Gabriel School, which is located near Forest Hill in Kanata, encouraged students to design homemade Christmas cards for Forest Hill residents. Just before the Christmas break, the school dropped off a box full of cards, and there was one for each of Forest Hill’s residents, says Craig Forrest, the home’s life enrichment co-ordinator.

Students from another school, M.F. McHugh Education Centre in Ottawa, also made Christmas cards that were sent to Forest Hill residents.

“It really meant a lot to all the residents to get these homemade cards from the kids,” Craig tells The OMNIway.

A group of nursing students from the University of Ottawa took time to write letters to Forest Hill residents and send some Christmas cheer, and this gesture was also well-received, Craig says.

“(The nursing students) knew that our residents were going through a very difficult time, and they wanted to write Christmas greetings to them,” Craig says.

Every Christmas, a troop from the Girl Guides of Canada visits Forest Hill to sing carols for residents. With safety protocols in place, the Girl Guides were not able to visit this past holiday season, so instead members of the troop made videos of them singing.

The videos were compiled into a single video that was sent to Forest Hill. Staff members visited residents individually with a laptop computer to play the video for residents.

“It wasn’t the same (as a live performance), but at least the residents still got to experience the caroling, and they enjoyed that,” he says.

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Photo caption: Forest Hill resident Nancy Garmaise is pictured with a Christmas card she received during the holidays.

Forest Hill residents receive COVID-19 immunization

Forest Hill residents have received their first round of vaccinations to protect them from the COVID-19 virus.

Paramedics from the local public health unit were at Forest Hill on Jan. 14 to immunize more than 140 residents at the Kanata, Ont. long-term care home.

All residents vaccinated provided consent to be immunized.

Some staff members who had not yet received the vaccination, as well as family members who have been deemed “essential caregivers,” were also able to receive immunization, says Craig Forrest, Forest Hill’s life enrichment co-ordinator.

Up to Jan. 14, Craig says about three-quarters of Forest Hill staff members had been immunized, and the paramedics were able to inoculate about 10 staff members who had not yet received the vaccine.

The COVID-19 vaccine requires two vaccinations, and the paramedics will be returning in two and half weeks to administer the second round, Craig says.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing and safety protocols, such as staff wearing face masks, strict hand-washing and social distancing will remain in place at Forest Hill, Craig says there’s a sense of things getting better.

“We are still going to have months (of the pandemic) ahead of us, but at least you can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” he tells The OMNIway.

The COVID-19 pandemic was declared by the World Health Organization in March 2020. At the time of this writing, the Government of Canada website is reporting there have been 731,450 cases of people in Canada contracting the virus. The website reports that 18,622 Canadians have died as a result of COVID-19 infection.

The Government of Ontario says on its website that vaccinations will be crucial to curbing COVID-19 infection.

“(Vaccines) will be an important tool to help stop the spread of the virus and allow individuals, families and workers to safely resume normal life,” the website states.

“The coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine does not cause a coronavirus infection. It helps to build up your immunity to the virus, so your body will fight it off more easily if it affects you.”

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Forest Hill’s patio is getting lots of good use

Residents have been enjoying safe outdoor activities, entertainment and family visits

With restrictions in place on indoor group programming and visitation due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, Forest Hill has been making the most of its patio area to keep safe activities and socialization a part of everyday life at the Kanata, Ont. long-term care home.

When possible, life enrichment team members have been hosting programs, limited to 10 or fewer residents, on the patio (social distancing practices are always in place). Activities like trivia have been especially popular outdoors, says life enrichment co-ordinator Craig Forrest.

“We’re definitely trying to take advantage of (the outdoors) as much as we can,” Craig says. “We will also take residents outside on a one-to-one basis to the patio as well.”

There has also been outdoor entertainment at Forest Hill in recent weeks, with musical acts performing from a safe distance and residents seated apart. Because of the smaller audiences when entertainers perform, residents attend performances on a rotating basis.

In fact, Craig says there has been an added benefit to playing shows outside: better acoustics.

“We have always had lots of entertainment here, but it’s almost a different feeling outdoors – it almost sounds like a concert in a way,” he says.

“The residents have really enjoyed the outdoor entertainment because it almost feels like a festival.”

Because this summer has been warmer and sunnier than most, staff members have been stepping up hydration by ensuring residents always have cold drinks when they need them and, of course, providing sunscreen and hats to protect everyone from the rays.

Patio visits between residents and their loved ones have also spiked in recent weeks, Craig says. Forest Hill is offering these visits from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., seven days a week.

Family members who visit residents at the home’s patio are screened first.

“(Patio) visits have absolutely gone through the roof in popularity,” Craig says.

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Adapting activities, thinking creatively, has helped Forest Hill deliver programming

Life enrichment team has stepped up to the challenge, says LEC

With safety protocols in place to keep residents and staff members safe during the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic, the life enrichment team at Forest Hill has had to adapt activities and think outside the box in order to continue delivering high-quality programming.

The Kanata, Ont. long-term care home has 156 residents, making it one of the largest OMNI Health Care homes. While having a large resident population means there is more work to do, the life enrichment team has successfully stepped up to the challenge, says Forest Hill life enrichment co-ordinator (LEC) Craig Forrest.

After the World Health Organization declared the pandemic in March, Forest Hill, like OMNI’s other 17 long-term care homes, began organizing video chats between residents and their loved ones using Skype and FaceTime, which took a lot of planning and time, Craig says.

Now that some restrictions on visitation have been eased, team members’ days largely focus now on planning and overseeing visits inside and outside the home, he adds.

On top of this, some small-group programs, such as bingo and crafts, are running again with social distancing in effect, so staff members are also having to organize a rotation for residents to ensure that anyone wishing to participate gets a chance.

“Overall, we try to be as fair as we can by rotating the residents for programs, and that’s one way everyone has had to adapt,” Craig tells The OMNIway.

“We also have to adapt what was once a large program into a small program with social distancing.”

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Forest Hill ‘gatekeeper’ keeps everyone safe while bringing positivity to work

Ken Gagnon is pictured at the screening station at Forest Hill on Canada Day.

Ken Gagnon screens everyone who enters the home to keep residents and staff safe during the pandemic, and he does so with humour and kindness

Ken Gagnon has a serious job to do at Forest Hill but he does his work every day with a sense of humour and positivity that’s noticed and appreciated by staff members at the Kanata, Ont. long-term care home. Read more

Video conferencing continues to be a hit with Forest Hill residents and families

Forest Hill resident Sandra Presley is pictured here enjoying a video chat with her daughter Lori.

Time slots for Skype and FaceTime calls are being booked solid almost every day

Since Forest Hill began offering video conferencing calls to keep residents and their families connected during the COVID-19 pandemic, Craig Forrest, the Kanata, Ont. long-term care home’s life enrichment co-ordinator, says bookings are full nearly every day. Read more

Classic car parade comes to Forest Hill for Father’s Day

A group of classic car enthusiasts paraded through the Forest Hill parking lot on June 21 as a Father’s Day tribute to the gentlemen living at the Kanata long-term care home.

A group of classic car enthusiasts from the Ottawa area formed a parade through the parking area at the front of Forest Hill on June 21 to pay a Father’s Day tribute to the gentleman living at the Kanata long-term care home. Read more

Forest Hill celebrates all staff for their dedication during National Nursing Week

Pictured above, Forest Hill interim director of care Nicole Fulford (left) and interim assistant director of care Rachel Gadher serve lasagna during one of the events the home hosted in honour of National Nursing Week.

Honouring team members was especially important this year, given the challenges the LTC sector is facing with the global pandemic

Celebrating the people working in OMNI Health Care’s 18 long-term care homes during National Nursing Week is a long-standing part of the organization’s culture, but honouring team members for their hard work and dedication to residents had even more meaning this year, given the challenges brought on by the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic, says Forest Hill life enrichment co-ordinator (LEC) Craig Forrest. Read more