PSW reflects on career change that brought her to Almonte Country Haven

‘I absolutely love it here,’ says Tracie Boyd

After the COVID-19 pandemic put an end to Tracie Boyd’s 25-year career as a daycare provider, she was ready to embark on a career working in long-term care.

Even before the pandemic, Tracie says she had been considering a new career in long-term care. When she saw an advertisement for a personal support worker (PSW) training program provided by the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario (CDSBEO), she decided to take a step towards starting a second career.

During her first day of training last September, Tracie met three Almonte Country Haven team members: Tiffany Brydge, Rebekah Lafontaine and Sheila Warren.

They explained to her that Almonte Country Haven was involved with a partnership with CDSBEO and that if she was interested in working at the Lanark County long-term care home, she would be paid for her on-the-job training and promised a position at Country Haven upon completing the course.

The PSW training program is supported by the Canadian Career Academy (CCA). The CCA covers a portion of the program’s tuition fees. Students who are doing their placement at Almonte Country Haven have the remainder of their tuition paid for through OMNI Health Care’s bursary fund.

Tracie took the opportunity. She graduated from the PSW program in February and says she has not looked back on her decision.

“I absolutely love it here,” Tracie says of working at Almonte Country Haven.

“Everybody has been so good to me. The residents are great and all the employees and managers are great. They are very family-oriented.”

Tracie adds that the PSW training program was well-rounded, informative and she would recommend it to anyone considering a career as a PSW.

Administrator Carolyn Della Foresta says Tracie has been an outstanding member of the Almonte Country Haven team who has “found her passion and her calling” working in long-term care.

Carolyn adds that one of Tracie’s key strengths is her ability to provide residents with supportive measures, and that she would make an excellent member of the home’s Behavioural Supports Ontario (BSO) team.

“She has a gentle spirit and has such a calming influence on residents,” Carolyn says.

“Tracie is somebody who I would love to see pursue further behavioural support work and training because I think she would be an amazing addition to the (BSO team) that we have in the home.”

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Village Green residents treated to a jungle safari without leaving home

Safari Day was beneficial to residents on many levels

Village Green residents were recently treated to an African safari that included a tour where they spotted different animals and learned about several creatures that live in a jungle habitat.

The activity, which was held on April 6, began with the life enrichment team hosting an educational program on Kenyan folklore in the morning.

Later, the life enrichment team and co-op placement student Griffin Newton led residents through the Greater Napanee long-term care home on the safari to search out the variety of “animals” that were made from pieces of cardboard cut into the shapes of different creatures and then painted by Griffin and his family.

The animals were created with “amazing” detail, notes Village Green life enrichment co-ordinator Ulana Orrick.

“Griffin has an immense artistic talent, and over the Easter weekend he and his family created all of these different animals by hand,” Ulana says.

Residents and their safari guides walked through Village Green looking for tigers, gazelles and other animals that one may spot on a safari.

As soon as an animal was spotted by residents, a life enrichment team member would provide information about the creature.

The safari ended in the home’s sunroom where there was a cardboard cut-out of a Jeep that served as a prop for residents to have their photos taken with.

The fun continued after the safari when residents were treated to a Kenyan-themed pub afternoon where they enjoyed drinks and special food made by team members.

The food included pigs-in-a-blanket – dubbed “boar in a blanket” – as well as a chutney and tropical fruit.

The day ended with residents learning how to play mancala, a strategy-based board game that originated in Africa.

Ulana says the activities from Safari Day met residents’ needs on many levels. Aside from being fun and educational for residents, the day also had social aspects and also proved to be a way to get people exercising.

“Walking in the halls, they were exercising without even realizing it,” Ulana says.

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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.

EDITORIAL: Despite pandemic, things are looking up in 2021

Although we have entered the third wave of COVID-19, and despite the challenges we continue to face as health-care providers in the midst of a pandemic, there are many positive things to report in the first quarter of 2021.

The best news for OMNI Health Care so far this year has been the arrival of vaccines to help protect our long-term-care home residents and staff members against the highly contagious COVID-19 virus.

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

Since January, when the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines became available, OMNI homes and local public health units have shown outstanding collaboration to ensure every resident wishing to be immunized received the vaccine.

While vigilance will continue to be required, with the vast majority of OMNI residents now vaccinated we have taken a huge step forward on the path back to normality.

There has also been some great news this year with respect to the redevelopment of OMNI homes.

Most recently, the Ontario government announced that funding has been approved to build a new 192-bed long-term care home in Cobourg to replace Streamway Villa.

Streamway Villa is the latest OMNI long-term care home to receive approval for redevelopment. There are six other homes that have now been approved for redevelopment, and construction is well underway at three of these homes: Almonte Country Haven, Pleasant Meadow Manor and Woodland Villa.

Redevelopment projects to renovate Country Terrace and build a new Riverview Manor in Peterborough will also begin this year, while the first phase of planning for the construction of a new Village Green in Greater Napanee will also begin.

Through all the ups and downs the past year has brought, the people working in our long-term care homes continue to be stalwart supporters of residents.

With changing circumstances throughout the pandemic, residents have had to adapt to the challenges that come with safety restrictions, but they have been supported along the way by staff members who have shown their love and kindness at every turn.

Through the creative programs they design that meet safety requirements, to organizing safe visits with families, to one-to-one time they spend with residents who need someone to talk with, the people working in our homes have, perhaps more than ever, been living OMNI’s mission of bringing hope, purpose and belonging to health care.

While these may be challenging times, there’s a lot to be thankful for.

Village Green residents remake famous scene from the musical Easter Parade

The classic musical film Easter Parade served as the inspiration for a fun program at Village Green that saw residents dress up in their favourite outfits and have their photos taken over the Easter weekend.

On April 2 (Good Friday), residents watched Easter Parade, a 1948 musical about a dancing team that stars Judy Garland and Fred Astaire.

On Easter Sunday, the Greater Napanee long-term care home’s residents had the opportunity to attend their own Easter parade and recreate a famous scene from the film where Garland and Astaire walk arm in arm.

The part of Fred Astaire was played by Chris, one of Village Green’s life enrichment aides, who was also dressed up for the role.

With protocols in place to keep everyone safe during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing was in effect and team members all wore face masks.

Village Green’s large dining room, which provides lots of open space, was used as the parade route for residents to walk through.

While some residents participated in the photoshoot, others chose to watch from the sidelines and provide encouragement.

“Residents could choose to watch and cheer or to strut their stuff and show off a bonnet of their own making,” says Village Green life enrichment co-ordinator Ulana Orrick.

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Easter Bunny visits Kentwood Park

LEA Darlene VanVlack made Easter morning special for residents

Sometimes the smallest gestures have the greatest impact, and that was certainly the case at Kentwood Park on Easter morning when residents of the Picton, Ont. long-term care home had a special visitor.

Life enrichment aide (LEA) Darlene VanVlack put on a rabbit costume and played the part of the Easter Bunny for residents. She went around the home visiting each of the residents to wish them a happy Easter and to spend some one-to-one time with them.

Of course, since it was Easter, there were lots of chocolates for everyone, and the Easter Bunny made sure every resident had their share of sweets, says Kentwood Park life enrichment co-ordinator Lisa Mills.

With restrictions in place to keep residents safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, large-group programming is currently on hold, so one-to-one time between residents and staff has a lot of value.

Getting a visit from the Easter Bunny proved to be a big hit with residents and ensured they had a happy Easter, Lisa says.

“Residents spoke of this for days, and (were talking about) how pleased they were to receive the gifts she handed out,” she tells The OMNIway.

“So to speak, it was a hopping good time had by all.”

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Local community and staff help create a happy Easter at Maplewood

‘It was a team effort on Easter Sunday’

Maplewood residents had a happy and memorable Easter, thanks to the generosity of the local community and the creativity of staff members at the Brighton, Ont. long-term care home.

People from the community donated Easter gift baskets to Maplewood, and staff members delivered these to each of the home’s residents.

Maplewood life enrichment aide Rosanne Blackburn, who is well known at the home for coming up with creative ideas for engaging residents and staff, dressed up as the Easter Bunny.

Before lunch was served on Easter Sunday, Rosanne and all of the Maplewood staff members did the chicken dance for residents. As an added touch, they wore chicken T-shirts and chicken headbands that were made by nutritional care staff members Jackie and Linda.

Residents were also served a special Easter breakfast of fried eggs and bacon that was plated to look like bunnies, with the eggs for the face and bacon strips for the ears.

Rosanne is commending everyone working at Maplewood for pulling together to make Easter special for residents.

“It was a team effort on Easter Sunday,” she tells The OMNIway. “It was a fun day full of laughs.”

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Country Haven PSW says the pandemic cemented her career path

‘I felt that being a PSW was literally my passion,’ says Tiffany Brydge

Tiffany Brydge had been working as a care assistant worker at Almonte Country Haven for two months when a COVID-19 outbreak was declared March 29, 2020, at the Lanark County long-term care home.

When the outbreak began, Tiffany says she knew that becoming a personal support worker (PSW) was her calling.

She had already signed up for the September intake of a PSW training program offered through the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario (CDSBEO) and supported by the Canadian Career Academy (CCA), but seeing the difference front-line workers made to residents during this challenging time cemented her decision.

“I felt that being a PSW was literally my passion, and I felt that I had finally found my passion when I came to work (at Almonte Country Haven) when we were going through the outbreak,” Tiffany tells The OMNIway.

Tiffany was on Facebook 14 months ago when she saw an ad from the Canadian Career Academy (CCA) about an opportunity to enrol in a PSW training program through the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario (CDSBEO).

The training program is offered to students at a comparatively low cost. The CCA covers a portion of the program’s tuition fees and allows students to earn money while doing their work placements.

For prospective students like Tiffany who were already working at Almonte Country Haven or who wanted to do a placement at the home, OMNI Health Care covers the remainder of the tuition costs through its bursary program.

“I haven’t looked back since,” says Tiffany, who worked in the retail sector for 22 years before deciding on a career as a PSW.

Almonte Country Haven administrator Carolyn Della Foresta says Tiffany has “shone” as PSW at the home.

Carolyn remembers the day during the outbreak when Tiffany told her she was convinced she made the right decision to become a PSW.

“She said, ‘I’ve found my purpose in life. I’ve now found my passion and my purpose and it’s to work as a PSW and to help these residents,’ ” Carolyn says.

Carolyn adds that Tiffany is resident-focused, and whenever she has a spare moment, she will find something to do with residents, such as accompanying them outside to fill the bird feeders.

Tiffany, who graduated from the PSW training program in February, commends the course as an excellent resource for people considering a rewarding career as a PSW.

“I absolutely loved it and I’m so happy that I came across this opportunity,” she says.

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Photo caption: Four Almonte Country Haven team members recently graduated from a PSW training program the home is involved with through a partnership with the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario. Pictured left to right, Tiffany Brydge, Sheila Warren, Rebekah Lafontaine and Tracie Boyd.

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.

Frost Manor residents get their own vending machine

Not only is the machine providing residents with easy access to drinks and snacks, it’s being used as an infection-control tool

After a staff vending machine at Frost Manor was slated for removal, residents of the Lindsay, Ont. long-term care home decided to buy the machine so they would have easy access to soft drinks, chocolate bars and other snacks.

The vending machine was moved from the staff room to a common area of the home. The machine has been christened “Frosty Vending”, with the words embossed on the side.

Lyndsay Burton, Frost Manor’s life enrichment co-ordinator, says proceeds from the vending machine will be added to funds raised by sales from the home’s tuck cart, a mobile cart selling drinks and snacks.

“(The vending machine) has become a great extension of the tuck cart and is a win-win situation (because) residents are now able to access treats and goodies at all hours, and staff are able to purchase from the vending machine, further supporting the residents’ tuck cart fund,” she tells The OMNIway.

The tuck cart fund has been used in the past to buy special items, such as the home’s campfire pit, as well as to help pay for entertainment before the COVID-19 pandemic began.

But Lyndsay notes the vending machine has been valuable in another way.

Since the vending machine sees lots of traffic, team members are using it as a tool to help teach residents about the importance of washing their hands before and after buying drinks and snacks.

“Residents have really responded well to the infection-control practices in the home and are encouraging others to hand-wash as well,” Lyndsay says.

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PHOTO CAPTION: Frost Manor resident Sylvia Trumbull poses with “Frost Vending”, the vending machine the Lindsay, Ont. long-term care home’s residents’ council recently acquired.