Almonte PSW grad found training program so rewarding she recommended it to her husband

Rebekah Lafontaine graduated from the CDSBEO’s PSW program in February. Her husband is enrolled for the September intake

Rebekah Lafontaine has found her role as a personal support worker (PSW) at Almonte Country Haven so enriching she has recommended the training program she recently graduated from to her husband, who is now signed up for the September intake.

Rebekah began working as a care aide at the Lanark County long-term care home shortly after a three-month outbreak of the COVID-19 virus ended in late June of last year.

She already had a friend who was working as a care aide at Country Haven who recommended Rebekah apply for the position.

“My heart just broke and I wanted to help,” Rebekah tells The OMNIway.

She found her work as a care aide so rewarding she enrolled in a PSW training program the home is involved with through the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario (CDSBEO).

But inspiration was also coming to Rebekah from another source: her grandmother.

“My grandmother had worked in long-term care for many years, and I had always looked up to her, so I gave it a try and I fell in love with it,” Rebekah says.

Rebekah, who graduated from the program in February, recommended her husband, Shawn, apply for a position as a care aide and consider taking the PSW program as well.

Shawn found he enjoyed working at Almonte Country Haven as much as Rebekah and he will be starting his PSW training in September.

“I told my husband about how happy I was and how happy I think it would make him, and it turns out I was right,” Rebekah says.

The PSW training program, which is supported by the Canadian Career Academy (CCA), 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.

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, and they have a PSW position waiting for them once they complete training.

Rebekah says she has not looked back on her decision, adding she enjoys coming to work every day because of the difference PSWs make in residents’ lives.

“There is so much to learn and grow,” she adds.

Almonte Country Haven administrator Carolyn Della Foresta says Rebekah is “one of the most gentle spirits I have ever met in my life” and is well suited for her work.

“She wants to excel and she takes every opportunity to learn,” Carolyn says. “She is so passionate about her work.”

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Country Terrace residents enjoying high-end meals through Diners Club program

Residents are still talking about the latest meal

Country Terrace residents have been enjoying an array of high-end meals the Komoka, Ont. long-term care home’s nutritional care team has been preparing as part of the Diners Club program.

The Diners Club is being hosted every two weeks for small groups of residents in a rotation. Country Terrace nutritional care manager Alex Achillini creates a menu of foods residents love and team members serve 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.

Recent Diners Club meals residents have enjoyed include beef tenderloin and chicken wings with ribs, and everything is prepared from scratch.

“The residents are still talking about it,” Alex says. “They enjoyed it very much.”

Anyone working in a long-term care home will tell you that high-quality meal service is a top priority for residents. Meals not only provide nourishment, there are also social and cultural elements tied to food that make mealtimes so valued.

“And when you do something special for meals and it is for a small group, the people also feel special,” Alex says. “Everybody else will also be served a special meal, but that feeling of being special is something the residents enjoy.”

During Diners Club meals, residents are offered beer and wine in addition to the usual beverage choices of juice, tea and coffee, Alex notes.

Diners Club meals are also served with Country Terrace’s best silverware and plates.

There will be a rotation of the Diners Club this week, and the nutritional care team will be preparing a seafood night. Alex gave a sneak peek of his plans.

“I’m going to make homemade pasta with lobster, shrimp and salmon,” he says.

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Community kindness: Local couple donates A/C units and fans to Country Haven, but the home ended up with much more

‘This is a story of one raindrop falling but having an incredible ripple effect’

Paul and Lee Brennae were at home in Almonte, Ont. last year watching a TV news story about how many older long-term care homes in the province do not have air conditioning, and this gave the couple an idea.

One of those homes without air conditioning was Almonte Country Haven, which had also been affected by a three-month COVID-19 outbreak, and the couple decided right then to help.

Knowing the hot, humid days of summer were just around the corner, the Brennaes decided to buy two air-conditioning units and two large fans for Almonte Country Haven to help keep residents cool and comfortable when temperatures began to rise.

Paul contacted Almonte Country Haven administrator Carolyn Della Foresta to let her know of the couple’s intentions.

Carolyn thanked the Brennaes for their kind offer, and Paul went ahead and ordered the air-conditioning units and fans through the Lowe’s Canada website.

But when the items arrived there was only one fan, so Paul made some phone calls letting Lowe’s know they were one fan short on their delivery.

Eventually, Paul talked with a representative from Lowe’s executive customer service department who said the fan was misplaced, which explained the delay, so to make up for the error Lowe’s offered to ship an extra fan at no cost.

In the end, Almonte Country Haven received two air-conditioning units and three fans, and Carolyn and the residents were grateful to the Brennaes and Lowe’s for their kind gestures.

“Paul and Lee reached out in this incredibly kind and tangible way, and these air conditioners and fans are just amazing,” Carolyn tells The OMNIway.

“What was so amazing to me is that this couple in the community had no personal connection with the home, (but) they knew about what we were going through (with the outbreak) and they were touched by our story and they wanted to reach out with an act of kindness.”

But the story doesn’t end here.

When Lowe’s learned from Paul the items were for Almonte Country Haven, the company wanted to do something extra for residents.

“They said they really liked what we were doing, so we were contacted by the company president’s executive assistant who said (Lowe’s) wanted to do more, so they asked what else (Almonte Country Haven) needed,” Paul says.

Paul let Carolyn know about Lowe’s offer, and Carolyn asked members of the home’s residents’ council what they would like from the company catalogue.

Looking ahead to the summer of 2021, the residents said new outdoor furniture to replace the older furniture would be great for outdoor visits and summer picnics.

In October, Carolyn was invited by Lowe’s to send an e-mail outlining residents’ request, which she did, along with an accompanying thank-you letter.

She relayed residents’ request for new outdoor furniture, and Lowe’s responded by sending a $2,000 gift card.

The Almonte Country Haven team will be using the card soon to buy residents their new outdoor furniture.

Looking back, Paul notes how the chain of events leading up to Almonte Country Haven receiving an extra fan and then a $2,000 Lowe’s gift card was unexpected.

“Initially, I just wanted to know where the fan was,” he chuckles.

Carolyn says she’s touched by the kindness and generosity the Brennae’s and Lowe’s have shown for Almonte Country Haven residents.

“This is a story of one raindrop falling but having an incredible ripple effect,” she says.

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Mobile unit is a one-stop activity shop for Springdale residents

Touch2Play system has been ‘worth it’s weight in gold,’ says LEC

A mobile activity unit Springdale Country Manor acquired three months ago has gone a long way to help provide residents of the Peterborough County long-term care home with meaningful activities during a time when large-group programming is not available, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The home purchased the Touch2Play game and activity system in December, and since then it has proven to be “worth its weight in gold” for the hours of entertainment and one-to-one programming it brings residents, says Sonia Murney, the home’s life enrichment co-ordinator (LEC).

The Touch2Play unit is on a cart and brought to residents in their rooms when they wish to use it. The system includes more than 70 games and puzzles for residents to enjoy, including word searches, connect-the-dots activities, memory activities, crosswords, chess, bowling and garden-building activities.

But the tried and proven favourite activities the unit offers are casino games, Sonia says.

“It doesn’t cost them to play but they want their money when they’re done,” Sonia chuckles. “I’ve seen residents win $200,000 or $300,000 and they think I’m going to cash them out.”

If a game or activity requires two participants, a life enrichment staff member will join in for a one-to-one activity, Sonia notes.

Residents have been eager to use the Touch2Play unit, Sonia says, adding that residents will often book times to use the system, which is carefully sanitized before and after each appointment.

Residents have also adapted quickly to the technology, Sonia adds.

“Once you show them how to do it, they can figure it out and they’re good to go,” she says.

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PHOTO CAPTION: Springdale Country Manor resident Shirley Sweeting is pictured here playing a casino game on the home’s Touch2Play. Shirley’s “big win” on the game was $350,497.

Annual Tropical Day brings sunny atmosphere to Frost Manor

A Hawaiian dance from the environmental services team was the highlight of the day

Frost Manor hosted its annual Tropical Day on March 25, and in keeping with the spirit of the occasion, the environmental services team was inspired to bring a little bit of Hawaii to residents of the Lindsay, Ont. long-term care home.

The environmental services team dressed in seashell-top bikinis, grass skirts and leis and did a Hawaiian dance through the dining rooms during breakfast, a gesture that received a round of applause from residents and their fellow staff members.

With restrictions in place to keep everyone safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, the team wanted to bring some extra fun and laughter to everyone to keep spirits up, says Frost Manor environmental services and maintenance manager Rick Riel.

“There was much-needed laughter and funny comments,” he tells The OMNIway.

Tropical Day was part of Spirit Days, a string of themed days where residents and staff members participate in activities centred on fun ideas.

After their dance, the environmental services team posed for a photo, and Rick, who can be seen in the centre of the picture (see above top photo), appears to be tired out from watching staff perform many hours of high-intensity cleaning.

“Environmental services aides Robert Reynolds, Tanya Smith and Nathan Durham remained happy and upbeat about performing these tasks daily,” Rick jokes, adding his staff has done a “great job … keeping the home clean, safe and fun for all our residents.”

The life enrichment department ensured every resident was in the spirit of the day by offering pina coladas, and there was also a tropical-themed painting class where residents painted hibiscus flowers.

Lyndsay Burton, Frost Manor’s life enrichment co-ordinator, says events like this are crucial during this challenging time when large-group activities and outside entertainment are not possible.

“Spirit days such as these are so important during the pandemic, it is a time for us to have fun, let loose and be creative,” she says.

“We had so much fun bringing in the warm weather; since we can’t travel, we brought the vacation to Frost Manor this year.”

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Riverview Manor is celebrating St. Patrick’s Month

The life enrichment team has organized engaging Irish-themed programs for residents throughout March

Rather than paying homage to Irish culture only on St. Patrick’s Day, the Riverview Manor life enrichment team has been helping residents celebrate the Emerald Isle throughout March.

During “St. Patrick’s Month”, the Peterborough long-term care home’s life enrichment team has been organizing a wide variety of programs for residents that combine fun with learning.

One creative program the team delivered residents was a virtual tour of Ireland that was presented by streaming Internet videos through the large TVs in the two dining rooms. Residents also got to see a piece of Blarney Castle life enrichment aide Adam Wicklum brought.

Adam also showed residents a video about the town of Wicklow, on the east coast of Ireland. The town has a personal connection with Adam, whose ancestors hailed from Wicklow. In fact, Adam explained, his family’s surname was changed from “Wicklow” to “Wicklum” upon their arrival in Canada.

Irish-themed trivia and games, including an Irish-themed bingo, a “shamrock spin beanbag toss” and a “pot of gold coin toss”, have also been featured throughout March.

The life enrichment team tapped into web-based resources like Activity Connection to come up with ideas for programming that included a game where residents played a version of “name that tune” with an Irish song theme.

Additionally, there was an Irish blessing at a church service, and residents also watched Stella Days, a 2011 film set in rural Ireland.

On March 15 and 16, residents were treated to pub nights which have proven to be fan-favourite events, Adam says, adding these programs have had “residents and staff talking for days.”

Drinks served at the pub nights included green beer, pop and a rainbow punch made from sherbet, crushed ice and diet lemon-lime pop.

To help build up everyone’s thirst, residents were provided with snacks that included green-coloured sour cream and onion ring chips, mozzarella sticks and orange Cheezies. The colours of these snacks matched the tri-colour flag of the Republic of Ireland.

Adam often makes creative Jell-O desserts for special occasions at Riverview Manor, and he came through for the pub nights, preparing a tri-colour green, white and orange gelatin dessert over top of crushed pineapple symbolizing a pot of gold.

He made a separate Jell-O dessert for those who are not fans of pineapple.

Adam says he also got into the groove during pub nights.

“(I) tried to do a little Irish jig, then danced a little with some residents before ending the program,” he says.

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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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Bingo, a prize draw and green beer mark St. Patrick’s Day at Frost Manor

Safety restrictions meant activities were low-key, but there was still lots of fun and laughter for residents

St. Patrick’s Day was low-key this year at Frost Manor, but the Lindsay, Ont. long-term care home’s residents and team members still celebrated all things Irish on March 17.

In the morning, residents and staff dressed up in green St. Patrick’s Day attire and shared a laugh at what everyone was wearing, says Frost Manor life enrichment co-ordinator Lyndsay Burton.

Later in the day, residents and staff played “lucky bingo” in the different areas of the home. There was also a prize draw from a “pot of gold,” and those selecting a winning token received a cash prize.

Since there is currently no large-group programming at Frost Manor due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, team members organized St. Patrick’s Day activities for small groups of residents, with social distancing and other safety measures in effect.

And, of course, no St. Patrick’s Day would be complete without refreshments, so team members served pints of green beer to residents who wished to have a drink as well as other festive treats.

Because of restrictions in place to keep everyone safe during the pandemic, St. Patrick’s Day had to be toned down compared to previous years, but residents still enjoyed the fun and laughter that comes with the occasion, Lyndsay says.

“The residents enjoyed the special programming, and we said, ‘everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s day,’ ” she says.

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Let’s dance: Burnbrae music program gets residents moving

The Music Appreciation program is providing residents with exercise, reminiscing and lots of fun and laughter

Since Burnbrae Gardens started a multifaceted music program six months ago, residents of the Campbellford, Ont. long-term care home have been benefiting from the joys music brings as well as from more exercise, increased happiness and lots of reminiscing.

The Music Appreciation program is the brainchild of life enrichment aide Shawna Booth, who started the program in September to provide residents with activities they enjoy while adhering to safety protocols in effect due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Music brings a lot of joy into people’s lives, and I was thinking this was something that was lacking because of (the pandemic), so that was the main inspiration,” Shawna says.

The program, which Shawna hosts every Thursday, varies from week to week. Each week there’s a different musical theme, from golden oldies to country classics to jazz.

Residents gather in small, physically distanced groups while music is played. Often, Shawna leads residents in exercises they can do standing or sitting.

“Sometimes we do activities where residents can dance in their chair for exercise where there are movements to go along with the songs, (and) sometimes we will play songs that will get residents reminiscing,” Shawna says, adding residents recently enjoyed reminiscing about songs they remembered hearing at weddings and other events.

Shawna says she has also played relaxing music while leading residents in chair yoga exercises.

A major benefit Shawna says she has seen from the Music Appreciation program is increased participation. While some residents are not interested in games or bingo, virtually everyone loves music.

As a result, several residents who normally don’t participate in programs are attending this activity every week, she says.

But perhaps the greatest benefit Shawna is seeing from residents is an elevated mood accompanied by lots of laughter.

“That’s always good because laughter is the best medicine, and of course reminiscing is helpful with memory and cognition, and we do a lot of reminiscing,” she says.

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How COVID-19 prompted a dietary staff member to become a PSW

Sheila Warren had worked in the kitchen at Almonte Country Haven for 29 years, but when an outbreak began in March 2020, she decided to make a career change

Sheila Warren had worked in the nutritional care department at Almonte Country Haven for 29 years when a COVID-19 outbreak was declared at the Lanark County long-term care home on March 29, 2020.

Knowing front-line team members would need additional help caring for residents, and having previous health-care aide training, Sheila approached administrator Carolyn Della Foresta and asked to switch duties so she could work on the floor to help the personal support workers (PSWs).

Carolyn accommodated Sheila’s request and immediately noticed Sheila had a natural gift for PSW work. In fact, Carolyn, along with other Country Haven team members, thought caregiving may truly be Sheila’s calling.

Managers, PSWs and nurses suggested Sheila take PSW training and change job roles at Almonte Country Haven.

“As a management group, we saw that Sheila was amazing (working on the floor), she was meant to work hands-on,” Carolyn tells The OMNIway.

“We saw that Sheila shone outside of the dietary department working hands-on for her entire shift with the residents.”

There was also a perfect opportunity waiting for Sheila: Almonte Country Haven had recently entered a partnership with the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario (CDSBEO) through a PSW training program the school board offers.

The training program, which is supported by the Canadian Career Academy (CCA), 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 people like Sheila doing their placement at Country Haven, OMNI Health Care covers the remainder of the tuition costs through its bursary program.

Sheila decided to consider the offer, but before making a final decision, she wanted to consult with one more person: her mother who, coincidentally, had been a caregiver at Almonte Country Haven.

“I thought long and hard about it and talked to my mum, and my mum was the icing on the cake for my decision to take the PSW course,” Sheila says.

“She basically said you are your mother’s daughter and you will be fantastic at it.”

Sheila completed the training program and is now a full-time PSW at Almonte Country Haven. Sheila says she has not looked back on her decision.

“I love it immensely,” she says of her new position.

Sheila also has words of praise for the PSW program offered by CDSBEO.

“It was very informative,” she says of the program, adding her neighbour recently expressed interest in signing up for the training. “Between doing the course, working and taking care of everything at home, my schedule was full, but it was a very informative program.”

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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.