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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How video calls and window visits helped a close family stay close in early part of pandemic

Family member Judy Wood says the Forest Hill team worked hard to make a difficult time easier

Judy Wood remembers the uncertainty she and her five siblings experienced when the COVID-19 pandemic began 17 months ago.

At the time, their mother had been living at Forest Hill for about two years. Judy and her siblings were used to visiting often, but visits to the Kanata, Ont. long-term care home were not possible due to safety restrictions in place.

Judy says Forest Hill staff members understood the concern families had for their loved ones living at the home. Forest Hill life enrichment co-ordinator Craig Forrest and his staff immediately created a system of keeping everyone connected through video conferencing platforms like Zoom and Skype.

This, Judy says, helped her, her siblings and their mother through the first months of the pandemic.

“We are all very close to our mom, (and) Craig and his staff were so accommodating,” Judy tells The OMNIway, adding her mother always had a Forest Hill staff member by her side to help guide her and assist with any questions.

“I would call to ask for a time to connect with my mom and they would make it happen. We all worked together. It was nice to be able to see her and connect with her.”

During the pandemic, Judy’s mother became a great-grandmother twice. Although her mother has a visual impairment, she does have some peripheral vision, and Judy says she was able to see photos of her newborn great-grandchildren on a tablet the Forest Hill team provided.

It’s moments like this that made a difference to Judy’s mother and her family, Judy says.

And it wasn’t just video calls the Forest Hill team organized.

Judy says once residents and their family members were permitted to have window visits, the Forest Hill team arranged for Judy’s mother to be at a large window at the front of the home to see her family.

“When we had those visits, Forest Hill was so accommodating,” Judy says. “The staff would bring her downstairs to the big window so she could spend time just watching us.”

Given that her family is so close, Judy says the effort Forest Hill made to ensure her mother had frequent contact with her family helped carry everyone through a challenging time.

“We were able to see her and feel reassured that she was doing well,” says Judy, who is now an essential caregiver for her mother at Forest Hill.

“For us, it was a reassurance that she was OK.”

– This is Part 1 of a two-part story.

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Emotional support is the greatest gift you can give as an essential caregiver: family member

‘It has made all the difference in the world; it’s just incredible,’ says Forest Hill family member Karen Germundson

Karen Germundson says becoming an essential caregiver for her father at Forest Hill “has made all the difference in the world” – both to her dad and to her.

A designated essential caregiver since last October, Karen visits her dad regularly at the Kanata, Ont. long-term care home. The greatest value she brings her father in this role, she says, is “emotional support.”

“He can tell things are changing and it scares him,” Karen tells The OMNIway. “So, I see my big role is to be there to help him on the days he’s really afraid and then providing that support.”

After the COVID-19 pandemic was declared by the World Health Organization in March 2020, long-term care homes across Ontario were closed to visitors to help keep residents safe.

As with other family members and residents, life enrichment co-ordinator Craig Forrest and the life enrichment staff would organize regular phone calls between Karen and her dad, which made things easier during a difficult time, Karen says.

But nothing compares to being at Forest Hill with her father, she adds.

“It has made all the difference in the world; it’s just incredible,” she says. “If he’s having a bad day, and I sense that, I can go back again, whereas before, Craig would set up the phone call, but that phone call would end and I couldn’t tell if my dad was still scared or upset about something. But this way, if I sense he needs me, I can go back, and that makes a huge difference.”

Karen says the support she and her father have received from staff members during the pandemic has reinforced the notion for her that Forest Hill has been the right home for her father.

“They really are focused on trying to make it like a home for the residents in every way,” she says. “The meals, activities, they have a beautiful patio – they really see the residents as individuals, with each having different needs, and they address those needs.”

– This is Part 2 of a two-part story. Click here to read Part 1.

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Forest Hill applauded for keeping residents and families connected throughout the pandemic

Family member Karen Germundson says regular phone calls LEC Craig Forrest organized between her and her father were a ‘lifeline’

If there’s one thing Karen Germundson says she has learned about Forest Hill since the COVID-19 pandemic began 16 months ago, it’s that staff members will do everything they can to support residents and their families during trying times.

Karen, whose father is a resident at the Kanata, Ont. long-term care home, says this was clear from the moment the pandemic was declared by the World Health Organization in March 2020.

Due to safety restrictions that went into effect right away, family members could not enter the home to visit their loved ones. Communication between residents and family members was going to be crucial, and Karen says Forest Hill life enrichment co-ordinator (LEC) Craig Forrest immediately began organizing phone calls for her dad – something that made a major difference.

“Craig was a huge help; he arranged so many phone calls so that I could keep in touch with my dad,” Karen tells The OMNIway.

“My dad can’t use the phone himself. We didn’t have a phone for him, and that was my big concern: how on Earth are we going to keep in touch?”

But Craig continued to organize regular phone calls for Karen and her dad. Craig would call Karen and hand her dad the phone. Karen was able to talk to her dad almost every day, and that made the situation easier for both her and her father to handle, she says.

There was a lot of uncertainty in the early days of the pandemic. No one knew how long it would last or when residents and family members would be able to see each other, so phone calls between residents and their families became a “lifeline,” Karen says.

“Those phone calls were super important to us and to my dad, of course,” she says. “It was hard for him to understand the whole COVID situation. I think it was an anchor for him because he really needed those phone calls every day.”

Karen also says the pandemic taught her how resilient Forest Hill team members are. With restrictions changing throughout the duration of the pandemic, Forest Hill staff members, she says, have always adjusted and put the residents first, no matter what.

“I don’t know how much more work (the pandemic has) created for them, but I know it created a lot more work for them, and they just took it on – they just did it,” she says.

“I think it’s their adaptability. They had to keep changing and changing, every time. They just did it, and it must have been really hard for them, but they did it.”

– 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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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.

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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