Country Terrace focusing on quality mealtimes to keep spirits high during the pandemic

‘You have to be creative and work within the restrictions’

Since protocols in place due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic have limited group activities and programming for long-term care homes, Country Terrace has turned to something that is universally important to residents to ensure their quality of life is kept high: meals.

Every two weeks the Komoka, Ont. long-term care home hosts the Diners Club, a mealtime program where small groups of residents, on a rotating basis, choose a special meal the nutritional care team prepares for them.

The program was launched a few years ago, but it has been especially important to residents since the pandemic was declared 14 months ago, says Country Terrace nutritional care manager Alex Achillini.

Recently, the Diners Club featured a meal of pork ribs, chicken wings, onion rings, fries, coleslaw and pineapple upside-down cake. Other meals residents have requested over the years include beef tenderloin, seafood and reuben sandwiches.

The Diners Club has also focused on providing special meals for residents on texture-modified diets.

“You have to be creative and work within the restrictions,” Alex says.

Along with providing residents with their favourite foods, the Diners Club program also includes wine and beer for residents to enjoy, and meals are served using the home’s best plates and cutlery.

Country Terrace nutritional care team members have also received outside praise for their work.

In 2020, the team was recognized by the Canadian Society of Nutrition Management (CSNM) for the Mother’s Day lunch of barbecued pork ribs, parsnips, cornbread muffins, cream of celery soup and dulce de leche cheesecake that was served last May.

The CSNM posted a photo of the meal on its website to honour the team.

Residents also provide the nutritional care team with input to enhance their dining experience. For example, the team is now looking at sprucing up the meatloaf recipe to make a favourite meal even better for residents, Alex says.

And it’s not just the Diners Club the nutritional care team is focusing on during the pandemic. Alex and his team also regularly treat residents to ice cream and other desserts, he adds.

“These are all things you can do to improve the quality of life from the dietary (department’s) point of view,” Alex says.

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OMNI support, training and networking helped prepare Frost administrator for new position

Neil MacDonald also says his previous experience as the Riverview NCM has been an asset

Neil MacDonald says support from OMNI Health Care, the training he’s been provided and the networking opportunities he’s received as an OMNI team member have helped prepare him for the administrator position at Frost Manor.

Neil became administrator at the Lindsay, Ont. long-term care home April 8. Prior to becoming administrator, Neil worked as a dietary aide/cook at Frost Manor and served as the nutritional care manager at Riverview Manor in Peterborough.

Along his career path, Neil says OMNI has been supportive on many levels. He has also taken advantage of the educational opportunities the organization offers.

As an attendee of OMNI’s Quality Forums, Neil says he’s learned a great deal from the variety of sessions offered and from the networking opportunities that are part of the events.

“(OMNI has) supported me through many steps of education in preparation to become administrator in the home, they have really supported me along each step of the way,” Neil tells The OMNIway.

“Furthermore, having the ongoing networking and education at the OMNI manager forums and having those sessions and meeting other administrators in the homes was very advantageous and has helped build a lot of skills and knowledge.”

Neil says he has also worked closely with the OMNI home office team and “learned so much” as he transitioned into his new role.

“They are so easy to communicate with (and) they are always just a phone call or an e-mail away to show their support and guidance,” he says of the home office team.

Having spent several years working in OMNI homes has also helped Neil acclimatize to his new role, he says.

Neil says he’s worked with “very good administrators in several different homes” and garnered a wealth of knowledge by observing their leadership skills.

His time as NCM has also provided the skills needed to build a strong team and work with others towards the ultimate goal of creating a high-quality living experience for residents.

“As far as (being an NCM), I was part of a successful team working to achieve a common goal, and I think translating that skill set to this one has been really beneficial,” he says.

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Cooking for LTC residents is a career that makes a difference, says Willows’ NCM

‘It’s the passion for the residents – I love working for them,’ says Jeffrey Peters

Jeffrey Peters started his culinary career working in the kitchens of what he describes as the “fast-paced world” of restaurants, hotels and catering services.

Then, six years ago, he decided to make a career change and use his skills in a way that would positively impact people’s quality of life.

He began working in long-term care and retirement homes and hasn’t looked back.

“My passion for the residents (drives me),” Jeffrey, who became the nutritional care manager (NCM) at Willows Estate in April, tells The OMNIway.

“It has been about coming into health care and bringing a fine dining experience and quality. … It’s the passion for the residents – I love working for them.”

Jeffrey says the atmosphere at Willows Estate is “homey,” and residents and staff members are like family.

“The people here are very nice and very welcoming, and this is a very nice place to grow,” he says.

Jeffrey says the shift from working in restaurants to working in a long-term care home has been “a wonderful change,” not only because it affords him an opportunity to make a difference to residents, but also because it has provided him with more time with his family and better quality of life.

Jeffrey underscores the importance of people being passionate about their work, particularly in long-term care. When people put their heart into their work in a long-term care home it’s reflected in residents’ quality of life, he says.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re working in a five-star restaurant or cooking for one person, you have to put your heart into what you’re doing.”

Outside of the kitchen, Jeffrey is also a musician. At the previous long-term care home where he worked, Jeffrey would sometimes leave the kitchen and entertain residents by playing piano.

He has also been known to sing for residents and do mini concerts, which is how he earned the nickname the “singing chef.”

“I love music and I love to cook, and I can’t give them both up, so I merge them both together,” he says.

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

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Photo caption: A sample of the desserts made at Willows Estate by nutritional care manager Jeffrey Peters and his team.

Streamway Villa residents celebrate Chocolate Ice Cream Day

‘We ate chocolate everything’

Would you like a cone or bowl?

That was the big question Streamway Villa residents were faced with on June 7, which happened to be Chocolate Ice Cream Day.

The Cobourg, Ont. long-term care home’s residents were treated to generous helpings of the world’s second-most popular ice-cream flavour (after vanilla) to celebrate the occasion.

“We ate chocolate everything,” Streamway Villa life enrichment co-ordinator Laurie Kracht says.

According to the UK website for Carpigiani, an Italian company that manufactures ice cream and gelato machines, the history of chocolate ice cream dates back to 1692, when the first known recipe was recorded.

The Carpigiani website states that from its earliest days, ice cream was fashioned from popular drinks of the time, including coffee, tea and, of course, hot chocolate.

That’s not to say that the chocolate ice cream we enjoy today tastes the same as it did in the late 17th century.

“The first chocolate (ice cream) recipe, published in Naples, was quite different to the chocolate ice cream that we know and love today,” the website says. “It was based on a popular drinking chocolate that was regularly mixed with spices such as cinnamon and anise.”

The origins of Chocolate Ice Cream Day are foggy – The OMNIway could not find any sources detailing when the first Chocolate Ice Cream Day was held – but the important thing is Streamway Villa residents got to celebrate the day and even learn new things about the popular dessert.

“We talked about the fun facts of chocolate and ice cream,” Laurie says, adding, “did you know it takes 50 licks to get through one ice-cream cone?”

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From cook to administrator, Neil MacDonald discusses his OMNI career path

Neil, who recently became Frost Manor’s administrator, says he was looking at managerial roles from his earliest days with OMNI

Several years ago, when he was working as a cook and dietary aide at Riverview Manor, Neil MacDonald was thinking about a career path that would lead him to become a long-term-care home administrator.

On April 8, after stints working at Riverview Manor, Frost Manor, Springdale Country Manor and Willows Estate, Neil became the administrator at Frost Manor in Lindsay.

“I (knew that) at some point I would want to pursue an advancement towards (the administrator position) – I didn’t know I would become an administrator, but I did strive towards it,” he tells The OMNIway.

Neil started his career with OMNI Health Care as a cook and dietary aide at Riverview Manor. He completed culinary school and accepted a position as Frost Manor’s nutritional care manager in 2014.

Neil later became NCM at Riverview Manor in Peterborough. After a short time away from OMNI, Neil came back to help at Willows Estate during an outbreak early in 2021.

During his time with OMNI, Neil has also worked short placements when needed at Springdale Country Manor and Pleasant Meadow Manor.

Two months into the administrator position, Neil says he’s enjoying the job and there’s a lot of familiarity for him at Frost Manor.

He notes that he and nutritional care manager Zach Jarvis went to culinary school together, and he has worked with several other Frost Manor team members over the years.

“It’s really great to step into a role and be familiar with the team you work with,” he says.

“I really enjoy the teamwork and the camaraderie, and I guess my favourite part (of being administrator) is understanding how the management team and the staff at Frost Manor really work together towards the common goal of providing the best quality of resident care that we can provide and being a part of that – this has been the most rewarding part so far.”

Looking ahead, Neil says he wants to see everyone working at Frost Manor continue to grow as a team and achieve the best possible quality of care for residents.

“That’s really what I want to be successful at and what I look forward to each day – that camaraderie and teamwork towards always improving ourselves, which in turn ultimately provides better quality of care for our residents,” he says.

– This is Part 1 of a three-part story

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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.

Return of safe, small-group programs has been a ‘huge blessing’ for Willows residents

Bingo and other resident-favourite activities are being held with safety measures in place

Willows Estate has been able to bring back some of residents’ favourite activities by hosting programs in small groups of five residents or less with other measures, such as mask-wearing and social distancing, in place to keep everyone safe during the pandemic.

While safety is still top of mind and safety protocols remain in place, being able to adapt programming to small groups has been a “huge blessing for our residents,” says life enrichment co-ordinator Teddy Mazzuca.

Bingo, which Teddy says has long been the most popular program among people living at the Aurora, Ont. long-term care home, is one of the activities that has been brought back in small groups.

In addition to playing the game in small groups with everyone wearing masks and socially distanced, there is also Plexiglas separating residents at tables for extra safety.

“(Bingo is) their favourite program, and even with only groups of five residents playing, you can still run the program by making it fun and upbeat,” Teddy says.

Another resident-favourite activity is the Willows’ bowling program, which returned to the schedule about three weeks ago. Like other programs, the bowling activity is hosted in groups of five residents or less with safety measures in place.

To ensure all residents wishing to participate get a chance, the activity is held a few times a day when it’s on the schedule to ensure everyone gets a turn.

Some residents, Teddy notes, have been struggling to understand what has been going on during the pandemic, but staff members have always been there to provide the emotional support that has been so crucial.

While the COVID-19 pandemic is still a major concern and safety measures remain fully in place, Teddy says there’s also a sense of hope among residents and staff.

“Slowly it is going to get better for all of us,” she says.

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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)

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Longtime resident Frank Trombley sings Burnbrae Gardens’ praises

Frank, who has lived at Burnbrae Gardens for 13 years, says staff members work hard to make residents feel at home

Frank Trombley has called Burnbrae Gardens home for 13 years and is a vocal advocate of the Campbellford, Ont. long-term care home.

If you ask Frank what he likes best about life at Burnbrae Gardens, he’ll tell you it’s the activities residents are offered.

From current events programs to music programs to Saturday-night movies, there’s no shortage of things going on at Burnbrae Gardens to keep him and other residents busy, Frank says.

“During the week, there is something going on pretty near every day,” he says. “It’s a nice place to live.”

Frank says staff members work hard to make Burnbrae Gardens a “home.”

“The staff members are wonderful, and (there is) a lot of freedom. We can do all our hobbies.”

And Frank has lots of hobbies.

Frank, 93, is always busy doing something. He’s particularly fond of building models. Some of Frank’s projects, such as a log cabin model he made in 2017, have been put on display at the home.

Frank’s room, as he puts it, “is a little helter-skelter,” with his walls full of pictures and his desk covered with projects he’s working on, including a model boat he’s currently building, so he’s always keeping busy.

Frank recently had an outdoor visit with his wife, Jean to celebrate her 89th birthday. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it was the first time the couple had seen each other face to face in 14 months.

Shortly after their visit, Frank spoke with The OMNIway about the experience. He 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.”

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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.

Texture-modified meals highlight recent Country Terrace Diners Club

Minced and pureed meals were plated and decorated in 5-star restaurant fashion

A recent Diners Club meal at Country Terrace focused on providing residents who are on texture-modified diets with a tasty and visually appealing dinner featuring some of their favourite foods.

The latest Diners Club meal provided a special dinner for residents on puree and mince diets. Since people “eat with their eyes first,” Alex Achillini, the Komoka, Ont. long-term care home’s nutritional care manager, creatively plated and decorated each plate the way a high-end restaurant would serve dinner.

Residents requiring minced meals enjoyed lasagna for their main course. Residents requiring pureed meals were served a pork chop with peas, mashed potatoes and gravy.

The lasagna was created with noodles Alex made from scratch. The minced lasagna noodles were placed in a glass bowl between layers of meat sauce and ricotta cheese. Homemade cheese buns and a caesar salad were served alongside the lasagna.

For the residents requiring pureed diets, the main feature was a pork chop. The meat was pureed and placed in a silicone mould, frozen to form the shape of a pork chop, and then cooked. This was served with peas and mashed potatoes that were piped into decorative shapes.

For dessert, residents enjoyed a mousse that was layers of dark chocolate and white chocolate, topped with chopped strawberries for residents on the minced diet and a caramel sauce for those on the pureed diet.

When creating meals for residents requiring texture-modified food, Alex says presentation is especially important. Something as small as adding a spoonful of sauce to cover meat or a decorative mashed potato or vegetable can go a long way in making a meal more enjoyable, he says.

Alex notes there was an added touch to this Diners Club meal.

“Residents ate outside on the patio, which added to the enjoyment, and the activities and maintenance departments did a great job decorating it,” he says.

The Diners Club is being hosted for small groups of residents in a rotation. Alex creates 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.

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