A thank-you to staff for vaccine campaign’s success

As we enter the final quarter of 2021, COVID-19 remains at the forefront of Canada’s collective mind, and we are now, by most estimations, in the fourth wave of the pandemic.

At OMNI Health Care, the good news is how well the pandemic has been managed by our 18 long-term care homes in 2021. This is largely due to the availability of vaccines since the start of the year and the exceptionally high rate of immunization amongst our resident population.

The people working on the front lines in OMNI homes have played an important part in this success. Their contributions to this year’s vaccine campaign cannot be understated.

When inoculations for COVID-19 became available to long-term-care home residents at the start of the year, staff members were educated about the vaccines and shared information about the science supporting their effectiveness with residents and their families.

This resulted in large-scale vaccine support and a 90-plus-per-cent vaccination rate in our homes, with many homes having nearly all eligible residents immunized against the highly contagious COVID-19 virus.

Staff members also worked tirelessly this year to organize in-house vaccine clinics, and they have collaborated with public health units to ensure seamless delivery of the vaccines to our homes.

Additionally, OMNI, along with a number of other Ontario long-term care operators, has made vaccinations mandatory for all staff members effective Oct. 15.

The Ontario government has subsequently issued a vaccine mandate for people working in all long-term care homes in the province.

Health-care experts across the board have stressed that vaccines are the best tool we have for preventing COVID-19 infection and for minimizing the impact of the virus in people who still become infected.

With a high vaccination rate amongst residents and staff, new directives from the Ministry of Long-Term Care and the hard work of team members working in OMNI long-term care homes, residents have continued to enjoy a high quality of life, despite the challenges that have come with the pandemic.

Keeping residents’ quality of life high is our greatest measure of success.

Still, we cannot lose sight of the fact the pandemic is not over, and we will remain diligent in keeping residents safe while keeping their quality of life high.

A huge thank-you to all staff members is in order for continuously maintaining this balance.

Families praise OMNI homes for balancing quality of life with safety during the pandemic

From keeping residents in touch with their loved ones to delivering meaningful programming, homes have excelled in resident focus, say family members

When the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, long-term-care home residents, their families and staff were faced with the challenge of balancing safety restrictions with providing residents a high quality of life.

Residents’ family members understood this challenge and, in recent OMNIway stories, they have expressed their thoughts on how well homes have worked to keep their loved ones safe and happy during a trying time.

When the pandemic was declared, long-term care homes immediately put safety precautions in place, including closing homes to all but essential visitors.

This presented the challenge of keeping residents and their loved ones connected. Technology helped bridge this gap. Homes began using video conferencing platforms, such as Zoom and FaceTime, to keep residents and their families in contact.

Forest Hill family member Judy Wood recalls how this helped her and her siblings stay in touch with their mother. Craig Forrest, the home’s life enrichment co-ordinator, helped arrange frequent video calls between Judy and her siblings and their mother.

“We are all very close to our mom, (and) Craig and his staff were so accommodating,” Judy said.

“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.”

There is also the programming that life enrichment teams have created that both meet residents’ needs and adhere to safety protocols.

Gladys Morris’s brother Doug was a Streamway Villa resident from October 2018 until he passed away in August. Gladys says Streamway Villa team members have continued to deliver meaningful programming to residents despite the challenges that have come with the pandemic.

This, she says, made a big difference to her brother.

For example, in late July, Streamway Villa hosted an Olympic-themed week. At the end of the week, team members organized a closing ceremony with a parade for residents.

Team members decorated residents’ wheelchairs and walkers as part of a contest. Doug, a retired farmer, had his wheelchair decorated as a Cub Cadet tractor by personal support worker (PSW) Linda Norton.

Doug took second place in the contest and was overjoyed, Gladys says.

“He wasn’t able to be up there very long, but he really enjoyed it,” she says.

Gladys recalls the moment when she realized how much Streamway Villa meant to her brother.

Shortly before he passed away, Doug was in hospital for treatment. Upon returning to Streamway, Doug was sedated. He suddenly heard the voice of one of the PSWs. “When he heard the voice of the PSW, he lit right up and it was like he was living anew,” Gladys says.

“That was the first thing that really hit me, and I said, ‘Doug, are you where you want to be?’, and he said, ‘yes, this is my home.’ ”

Creative, engaging programming continues to be a top strength among OMNI homes

Recent examples include a Great Gatsby-themed event, a unique drumming program and a carnival that brought back fond memories

Coming up with ways to develop safe, creative programming that engages residents and meets their needs on a variety of levels has continued to be a top strength for life enrichment teams at OMNI Health Care long-term care homes.

The OMNIway has been speaking with OMNI life enrichment departments about recent programming ideas they have developed to enhance quality of life for residents during the pandemic.

At Woodland Villa, life enrichment aides Melissa Cleary and Liana Charbonneau turned to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic 1925 novel The Great Gatsby for programming inspiration.

The duo created a 1920s-themed socially distanced event based on the book. Residents wore accessories common during the Roaring Twenties – such as masquerade masks and pearls – as well as danced to popular music of the era.

“We wanted to incorporate a little of the 1920s era because we have never included that era in any of our themed programs, and a lot of our residents know about the music and the decorations from that time, so they really appreciated the atmosphere of the day,” Melissa tells The OMNIway.

In the spring, Frost Manor life enrichment co-ordinator Amy Whitehead took an online training session about the DROM program. DROM is an activity that merges drumming techniques with the meditation chant called the “om”.

Each session starts with a focus on breathing to relax everyone and get participants ready. The second segment is the “energized portion” where multiple songs for the drumming session are performed by residents beating drumsticks on stability balls to the rhythm of songs Amy plays for them. The final segment, the “calming portion”, focuses on positive affirmation and meditation.

Amy says the program, which is held in small groups to adhere to protocols in place to keep everyone safe during the pandemic, has been a big hit with residents.

“Everyone goes away feeling good and can carry on with their day on a positive note,” she says.

Meanwhile, at Garden Terrace, LEC Rachael King and her team created a carnival day outside that brought back many fond memories for residents.

The July 9 carnival included a candy-floss machine, a target game played with bean bags, a T-shirt painting contest (done with a water gun) and carnival music.

Residents even got to give staff members a few pies in the face.

“Residents had a really fun time,” Rachael says. “They got to have fun and not worry because it has been a tough year.

LTC redevelopment support needs to stay on track to ensure resident safety and comfort

When the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 pandemic 17 months ago, those of us in the long-term care sector knew we had to brace ourselves.

It was evident early on that the sector would be put to the test. As with any serious virus, we knew COVID-19 had the potential to be especially devastating to the elder population and to those with complex health conditions.

While we had pandemic plans in place, there were many unknown factors surrounding COVID-19 we had to grapple with: How contagious was this virus? How can we protect residents without compromising their quality of life? How long would this last?

If there’s one thing the pandemic has taught us as a sector, it’s that as prepared as long-term care homes may be, as expertly trained and knowledgeable as home staff and managers are, the homes themselves must be spacious and equipped with modern features and amenities in order to offer maximum protection to residents.

The good news is the Ontario government has, since 2018, been investing in a capital redevelopment plan to upgrade the province’s older Class B and C long-term care communities to meet new home standards.

OMNI Health Care is grateful for the commitment the province has made to provide funding to support redevelopments that are underway at three of our long-term care homes – Almonte Country Haven, Pleasant Meadow Manor and Woodland Villa – as well as Country Terrace which is expected to be underway imminently.

The province has also committed redevelopment support for Riverview Manor, Streamway Villa and Village Green, which are currently in the design and planning process.

Amongst the many features that will come with these upgrades, perhaps the most important will be the improvement of personal space for residents through the elimination of three- and four-bed wards and the creation of home areas housing no more than 32 residents.

Not only will providing more space enhance residents’ quality of life, it will also improve infection control by reducing the number of residents living in close proximity to one another.

While progress has been made and shovels are in the ground for many of these projects, the momentum of the capital redevelopment plan needs to continue at full throttle.

Investing in long-term care now not only improves the quality of life for the residents of today, it will offer an added layer of safety for future residents.

Community connections delivering strong value for OMNI residents during the pandemic

Connections OMNI Health Care’s 18 long-term care homes have with their local communities have always been important, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, these relationships have had an especially crucial role to play enhancing the quality of life for residents.

In recent weeks, we have seen several examples of how homes and their local communities have come together and impacted residents’ lives in meaningful ways.

At Pleasant Meadow Manor, a new connection with the Peterborough-based Canadian Canoe Museum delivered a virtual tour through the Norwood, Ont. long-term care home’s smart TV for residents to enjoy.

During the virtual tour, museum staff explained the different types of canoes on display at the museum. Residents learned about the history of the canoe and how they are made, says Pleasant Meadow Manor life enrichment co-ordinator Kim Williams.

Everyone had lots of questions following the presentation, she adds.

“The residents enjoyed the tour and found it very interesting learning about the different types and ways that canoes were made,” says LEC Kim Williams.

“They had a lot of pertinent questions that the staff were more than happy to answer, and it showed that they really were engaged during the whole tour.”

Rev. Fran Langlois and the parishioners of St. Mary Magdalene Anglican Church in Picton have shown support for West Lake Terrace residents throughout the pandemic by keeping in contact with the home and making sure online church services are available for residents who wish to access them, notes West Lake LEC Janie Denard

The Bethany Christian Reformed Church has been another supporter during the pandemic, Janie says.

On Canada Day, church members dropped off individual hand creams for residents that were accompanied by cards. At Easter, they delivered care packages for all the residents.

Meanwhile, a community outreach group at Gateway Church recently donated five iPads to nearby Country Terrace in Komoka, Ont. to help residents connect with family and friends as well as providing entertainment. Residents are also attending virtual church services by watching them on the iPads.

Country Terrace and Gateway Church have a long-standing connection, and the church’s kind gesture will go a long way in keeping residents’ spirits high during the pandemic, says Country Terrace LEC Christie Patterson.

Christie says gestures like this mean a lot to everyone at Country Terrace, as the pandemic is still creating challenges for everyone.

“The staff are still making sacrifices to protect the residents, and it has taken a toll,” she says. “(The church’s kind gesture shows) that people still care. It is truly a blessing.”

If you have a story you would like to share with The OMNIway, please contact the newsroom at deron(at)axiomnews.com.

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Going above and beyond for residents is the OMNI way

Recent stories highlight the dedication team members have for the residents they serve

Residents are at the centre of everything OMNI Health Care team members do, and going above and beyond the call of duty to enhance the quality of life for residents comes with the territory.

In fact, it’s all part of a day’s work in OMNI homes.

When Jean Trombley, the wife of Burnbrae Gardens resident Frank Trombley, was getting ready to celebrate her 89th birthday in May, Lauren Farnham, a life enrichment aide at the Campbellford, Ont. long-term care home, organized a pandemic-safe reunion for the couple, who had not had a face-to-face visit in 14 months.

Frank, 93, said he was lost for words when asked how it felt seeing his wife of 42 years for the first time in more than a year.

“I’ll tell you right now, I’ll never forget this for the rest of my life, and I don’t think my wife will ever forget it either,” he said.

“How do you explain how you feel after having not seen your wife for months? It was just tremendous.”

Springdale Country Manor resident Lillian de Bassecourt turned 101 on May 21, and team members at the Peterborough-area long-term care home helped her celebrate with a build-your-own pizza luncheon provided to her and other residents.

Lillian had “a wonderful time” celebrating her special day with residents and staff members, said Sonia Murney, Springdale’s life enrichment co-ordinator.

Aside from the pizza luncheon, which also featured ceasar salad, Canadian maple ice cream and beer for everyone, Lillian received flowers and a window visit from her local family members.

Lillian recently moved into a new room at Springdale Country Manor. Sonia says Lillian’s new room provides her with a “beautiful view” of the home’s back courtyard. Lillian enjoys watching birds eat at the feeder and looking at the flowers.

“She can also see the hills and the green farmers’ fields, and she just loves looking at the scenery,” Sonia said.

Meanwhile, at Pleasant Meadow Manor, team members provided the ladies living at the Norwood, Ont. long-term care home with a day of pampering just before Mother’s Day.

On their own time and at their own expense, care assistant Jamie Cochrane and personal support worker Jeanette Davis organized a spa day for the residents on May 7, the Friday before Mother’s Day.

Kim Williams, the life enrichment co-ordinator at Pleasant Meadow Manor, says Jamie and Jeanette transformed the home’s hairdressing salon into “a lovely, warm, relaxing and welcoming spa room.”

The spa Jamie and Jeanette provided residents included facial treatments to cleanse and exfoliate skin, and manicures to get nails looking their best.

Jamie and Jeanette practised COVID-19 safety measures to keep everyone safe, Kim notes.

“Our ladies loved it,” Kim said.

If you have a story you would like to share with The OMNIway, please contact the newsroom at deron(at)axiomnews.com.

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Photo caption: Burnbrae Gardens resident Frank Trombley and his wife, Jean, sit outside the Campbellford long-term care home on May 24.

Three organizations team up to ask Canadians to help end elder abuse

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) was on Tuesday (June 15), and the Canadian Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (CNPEA), Elder Abuse Prevention Ontario and CanAge are teaming up to ask Canadians to help prevent elder abuse by raising awareness during their 2021 campaign.

The theme of this year’s campaign, entitled “Rights Don’t Get Old”, is focusing on spreading information to help protect and uphold the rights of seniors and prevent elder abuse.

Elder abuse can come in many forms, including physical, emotional and financial, as well as neglect and abandonment.

According to CNPEA, between seven and 10 per cent of older Canadians are the victims of elder abuse. Globally, CNPEA says it’s estimated one in six seniors have experienced elder abuse.

“The basic human rights of older Canadians are challenged and undercut every day and, tragically, this has never been more true than over the last year during the COVID-19 pandemic,” CNPEA says on its website.

To help people and organizations raise awareness of the issues surrounding elder abuse, the campaign organizers have created a social media guide. More information about the 2021 campaign can be found by visiting the CNPEA website.

The hashtag #RightsDoNotGetOld can be followed on social media.

This year marks the 16th annual WEAAD. WEAAD was first marked on June 15, 2006, by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations.

Since then, WEAAD events and activities have been held worldwide to bring attention to the issue of elder abuse. Organizations and communities have been encouraged to host awareness days and lead discussions about the prevention of elder abuse.

If you have a story you would like to share with The OMNIway, please contact the newsroom at deron(at)axiomnews.com.

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OMNI is grieving with Canadians over recent tragedies

Two incidents making national and international headlines serve as reminders of both a dark part of Canada’s past as well as intolerance that, unfortunately, continues to plague the fringes of our society today.

In late May, it was reported that the separate graves of 215 children – some as young as 3 – were discovered by ground-penetrating radar at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in Kamloops, B.C.

While this discovery sent shockwaves across the country, it also highlighted in bold print the mistreatment the people of Canada’s First Nations faced during the era of the residential school system.

It’s also a reminder that we still have a long way to go on the road to reconciliation.

This past Sunday, members of a Muslim family in London, Ont. were victims of a hit-and-run incident police are describing as a “premeditated” attack motivated by Islamophobia.

Four family members, aged 15 to 74, were killed as a result of this attack. A fifth victim, a 9-year-old boy, is recovering in hospital.

Canadians from coast to coast and representatives from all levels of government in every corner of the country have expressed their sorrow and dismay in the wake of these tragedies.

OMNI Health Care is proud to be a large family made up of residents and staff members living and working in our 18 homes who hail from all walks of life, cultures and faiths.

We value the contributions of people from rich, diverse cultures and backgrounds who make us stronger as an organization and as Canadians.

It goes without saying incidents like these impact us greatly.

These events have shone a light on the terrible consequences of racism in our society, whether systemic in nature or expressed overtly in words, actions or deeds.

But we also need to understand that intolerance and discrimination have always existed in our country, with particular impact on Indigenous Peoples, persons of colour and the Islamic communities.

It is important to speak of the terrible pain experienced then and now by First Nations communities torn apart by the racism and violence of the residential school system, and to express our sorrow and our support to the Islamic community affected directly by the violent act in London.

It is important to acknowledge and to speak out against all forms of racism that exist in our society, in the workplace, in our homes, in our communities and our institutions.

OMNI shares the grief and pain being felt across Canada and by the families and friends of the victims of these tragedies.

Seniors’ Month 2021 theme is Stay Safe, Active and Connected

June is Seniors’ Month in Ontario, and this year’s theme balances the importance of remaining vigilant about safety precautions during the COVID-19 pandemic with keeping a healthy body and mind.

The theme of this year’s Seniors Month is Stay Safe, Active and Connected.

In a press release, Ontario Seniors and Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho says Seniors’ Month is important because it highlights the contributions to society older Ontarians have made and continue to make.

“It is also an opportunity to raise awareness about the programs and services that are available to meet the immediate needs of seniors during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond,” Cho says in the May 3 statement.

Cho notes that “great strides” have been made in 2021 to ensure Ontario seniors, including those living in long-term care homes, have been immunized against the highly contagious COVID-19 virus.

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

Homes are keeping safety precautions at the forefront while remaining mindful about the importance of providing a high quality of life to residents, which marries well with this year’s Seniors’ Month theme.

Indeed, staff members have been working hard to keep the quality of life high for residents by holding activities that adhere to the province’s safety guidelines.

In the press release, Cho asks organizations to share the link to the Seniors’ Month toolkit, which includes Seniors’ Month posters, a fact sheet and information about the Seniors Community Grant program.

What is your long-term care home doing in honour of Seniors’ Month? If you have a story you would like to share with The OMNIway, please contact the newsroom at deron(at)axiomnews.com.

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Recommendations for LTC homes outlined in reports reflect positions OMNI and sector have long held

For many years, OMNI Health Care and the Ontario long-term care sector at large have been asking the province to improve funding aimed at resources to better safeguard long-term-care home residents against outbreaks and improving their quality of life as a whole.

Recent reports from the Auditor General of Ontario and the Ontario Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commission evaluating the government’s pandemic readiness and response are now saying the same thing.

The COVID-19 pandemic was declared by the World Health Organization in March 2020. Throughout the course of the year, 76 per cent of Ontario’s long-term care homes reported COVID-19 infection in residents and staff members.

Since the pandemic began, Ontario long-term care homes have been working tirelessly to keep the virus at bay and to control outbreaks when they occur.

Despite their efforts, more than 3,900 residents have died after contracting the virus.

Any viral outbreak in a congregated living environment is worrisome, but because long-term care residences are home to many people who are at an advanced age and have existing health conditions, outbreaks are especially dangerous.

The Ontario Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commission recognized this in its 322-page report and is calling on the province to take action to better ensure the safety of the province’s long-term-care home residents.

One recommendation the report and the long-term care sector have underscored is the need for the redevelopment of older homes.

Long-term care providers – including OMNI – have long advocated for improved funding to upgrade and rebuild homes to eliminate three- and four-bed wards, a move which would reduce the risk of viral infection.

While governments have worked to rectify this, escalating land and construction costs have hindered progress. The pandemic has raised additional barriers, including the lack of availability of liability insurance coverage for new homes. Bold action on all fronts is required to break this log jam.

The reports also recommend the province focus on increasing staffing levels of front-line workers, something OMNI and the long-term care sector have also been saying for many years.

But in order to attract staff to the sector, the province must be prepared to increase funding to match increased qualification requirements with improved salaries, and to improve staffing levels to meet growing care needs of an aging population.

Infection prevention and control (IPAC) is another area of concern raised in the reports. The long-term care sector has asked the province for funding to support dedicated IPAC staff for every home in the province to ensure practices meet established standards.

The sector is also recommending the province allocate more funding to provide greater IPAC resources within Ontario Health and public health units and to ensure quality and consistency of oversight and practice, avoiding the confusion of conflicting directions experienced by homes through the pandemic.

OMNI had a stored pandemic supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) available from the beginning of the pandemic, and our 18 homes at all times have had access to PPE. However, maintaining supplies was a continuing challenge throughout, and it’s essential government focus on ensuring sufficient supply lines and stocks domestically for this and future outbreaks.

There are numerous other recommendations contained in these reports, and action has already taken place on some fronts.

Significant challenges remain to be addressed, but we are hopeful that these reports, and the public spotlight upon long-term care challenges, will lead to systemic change for the benefit of residents, staff and families.

We know the government is taking these reports seriously and look forward to working together to build a better long-term care system.