Being an essential caregiver has been ‘absolutely wonderful,’ says daughter of Springdale resident

Maureen Whiteside says both she and her mother are benefiting from the in-home visits they’ve shared in recent months

Since becoming an essential caregiver in March, Maureen Whiteside has been at Springdale Country Manor regularly to spend one-to-one time with her mother, an experience she describes as being “absolutely wonderful.”

Maureen says visiting her mother three times a week at the Peterborough-area long-term care home has meant a lot to both her and her mother.

“You can’t believe the difference,” Maureen tells The OMNIway. “(My mother) really appreciates the visits and always asks when the next visit is.”

Maureen’s mother moved to Springdale Country Manor only weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020. When the pandemic was declared by the World Health Organization, Springdale, like other long-term care homes across Ontario, put pandemic protocols in place immediately and restricted visitation.

While Maureen and her mom were not able to have in-home visits for months, they did have regular phone calls and window visits, but as Maureen says, nothing beats being with her mother in person.

During her regular visits with her mom, Maureen says she has witnessed the compassion Springdale team members show residents. She says staff members go out of their way to give Springdale a homey, family-like atmosphere.

“I like that they chit-chat with all the residents,” she says. “They have pet names for the residents and they just are very happy and comfortable talking with the residents. That’s a big comfort. … They try to make it homey.”

One thing residents have been missing since the pandemic began is in-home entertainment, but Maureen says the Springdale team “tries to make up for that with personal visits and camaraderie.”

Before moving to Springdale, Maureen’s mother lived at Riverview Manor, another OMNI Health Care long-term care home.

Maureen says her mother also received outstanding care while living at Riverview and wants team members at that home to know how much she appreciates the staff.

“Mom spent several months at Riverview before going to Springdale, and I would like to give kudos to Riverview as well,” she says. “They were absolutely awesome.”

– This is Part 2 of a two-part story.

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Summer Games inspire Garden Terrace to host an Olympic day

About 30 residents participate in safe, outdoor day of friendly competition

With all the excitement the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games generated, the residents of Garden Terrace wanted to have their own Olympic-style competitions at the Kanata, Ont. long-term care home, so life enrichment team members made it happen.

On Aug. 9, the Garden Terrace courtyard was set up for a stream of events for residents to enjoy. The events included an egg-and-spoon race on an obstacle course, basketball, a target toss and a cup-stacking event where residents competed to stack and then unstack cups as quickly as possible.

About 30 residents competed in the events and pandemic-safe measures, such as mask-wearing for staff and social distancing, were in full effect, says Garden Terrace life enrichment co-ordinator Rachael King.

Of course, no Olympic competition would be complete without awarding medals, so life enrichment team members made gold, silver, bronze and participation medals to hand out after the events, Rachael says.

The Olympic day was a big hit with residents, she adds.

“A lot of the residents were really excited about the Summer Olympics going on, so we thought it would be a good idea to have our own Olympics,” Rachael tells The OMNIway.

Rachael says the life enrichment staff members did an outstanding job of organizing the event and creating banners and other decorations.

“They did a really awesome job,” she says.

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Springdale family member recounts how staff eased uncertainty early in the pandemic

Maureen Whiteside says the Springdale team has also been ‘very receptive’ to her mother’s needs

Maureen Whiteside recalls the swirl of uncertainty she experienced when the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, only a couple of weeks after her mother moved into the Peterborough-area long-term care home.

“The whole world was in pandemonium, and Springdale shut everything done right away,” Maureen remembers.

Maureen’s mother lives in a private room at Springdale, and when window visits began the home’s staff members would assist her mom to ensure she could have visits with her loved ones standing outside. This offered a valuable measure of comfort, Maureen says.

Since residents’ loved ones could not enter long-term care homes at the start of the pandemic, communication was important during the first few months.

Maureen’s mother, who is 98, had recently learned how to use a cellphone she was given. The cellphone became an important communication tool for Maureen and her mother during this time, and Springdale staff members helped ensure the communication between Maureen and her mother stayed constant.

For example, if Maureen didn’t hear from her mother or if her phone calls went unanswered, Maureen would call Springdale and staff members would check to make sure her mother’s cellphone was charged and switched on.

Staff members would regularly charge her mother’s phone to ensure the battery was always full, Maureen says.

Maureen says the phone her mother uses is an older flip-phone which some of the younger staff members were unfamiliar with. Life enrichment co-ordinator Sonia Murney typed instructions for them detailing how to use the phone, Maureen says.

“It has made a huge difference,” Maureen says of staff members’ efforts.

Maureen adds that correspondence between her and the Springdale team has been top-notch and everyone has been “very good at responding, either by telephone or by e-mail.”

Maureen says one of Springdale’s greatest strengths is that staff members are cognizant of her mother’s needs and are always willing to help.

“Doing things as simple as plugging in her cellphone or having her radio tuned to the classical station she likes (are examples of this),” she says. “They are very receptive to small tasks as well as large tasks. I would have to say that my mom is well looked after.”

– This is Part 1 of a two-part story.

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Decision to fell trees during Country Terrace expansion was not made lightly

As work continues on the redevelopment project to expand Country Terrace, there has been concern expressed by the local community, as well as by residents, families and staff members at the Komoka, Ont. long-term care home, about several trees on the property that have been felled in order for the project to move forward.

Understandably, many people are concerned with the loss of trees. OMNI Health Care shares these concerns, and we assure the decision to remove trees from the property during construction was made after careful consideration and assessment of the alternatives with architects and designers.

Building plans were thoroughly scrutinized. Understanding that trees are important, both for their contribution to the ecosystem and for their aesthetic beauty, plans to preserve as many trees as possible on the property were included during the design phase.

As well, in the course of obtaining municipal approvals, a landscape plan was presented that provides for additional trees to be planted on the long-term care portion of the site.

Country Terrace is one of four OMNI long-term care homes currently under construction as part of the Ontario government’s long-term capital redevelopment plan.

The Country Terrace redevelopment project is an investment in the local community that will add more space and provide for a safer, more comfortable environment for residents, as well as adding eight beds to the home to serve growing needs in the community.

The renovation will eventually result in the demolition of an outdated wing in the home and the elimination of all three- or four-bed rooms.

Once renovations are complete, residents will enjoy more space and more privacy, with four independent resident home areas. The design of the new addition is intended to fit in with the site and the neighbouring community and to meet all municipal requirements.

With an aging population, there’s a serious need for more long-term care beds and the redevelopment of older homes

The extra space the renovations will provide at Country Terrace will ensure residents live in the comfort and safe environment they deserve.

Country Terrace values its position in the community. Equally important, we recognize the need to bring the home up to date for the sake of residents and families.

On Fridays, West Lake Terrace turns into a cinema

Friday afternoon matinees have become a favourite program for residents during the pandemic

On Friday afternoons, West Lake Terrace takes on the atmosphere of a cinema, complete with a movie playing for residents and the aroma of freshly popped popcorn wafting through the halls.

The idea for the Prince Edward County long-term care home to start offering Friday movie matinees came from the residents, who were yearning to watch more of their favourite films.

The home bought an authentic movie theatre popcorn machine, which makes the experience even better for residents, says Janie Denard, West Lake Terrace’s life enrichment co-ordinator.

When Fridays come around, life enrichment staff members ask a resident to choose a movie from the home’s collection of videos. A different resident is asked to select a film each week to ensure variety.

“It’s always a different movie and the residents get to decide what they watch,” Janie tells The OMNIway.

With safety protocols in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, large-group programming has been on hold at West Lake Terrace and other long-term care homes, so activities like the Friday movie matinees have helped meet residents’ programming needs, Janie says.

As well as offering different movies on Fridays, staff members provide different refreshments to go with residents’ popcorn, such as milkshakes or Shirley Temples.

This program has made Fridays a favourite day at the home, Janie says.

“They absolutely love it; they look forward to watching their movies,” she says.

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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.

Forest Hill’s resident-centred culture shines through for family member

Judy Wood, who is now an essential caregiver for her mother at the home, says she sees first-hand the lengths staff goes to for residents

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Judy Wood says one thing has been clear for her about the people working at Forest Hill: they are focused on providing the best care possible for residents.

Judy’s mother has been a resident at the Kanata, Ont. long-term care home for about three years. When the pandemic began in March 2020, Judy says staff members immediately made sure residents and their families kept in touch through frequent phone calls and video conferencing sessions.

“We could see that they really cared for the residents and they felt the challenges that exist when loved ones are not able to visit and give (residents) that social connection and how important it is for the residents,” she tells The OMNIway.

As an essential caregiver who is often at Forest Hill with her mother, Judy says she sees the Forest Hill team providing high-level care to residents every time she is at the home.

“The people there care,” Judy says. “The nursing staff will go out of their way to bring things to residents, to talk to residents. They make sure that there is one-on-one time with each resident.”

Once family members of Ontario long-term-care home residents were able to become designated essential caregivers for their loved ones, Judy says she “jumped at the chance.”

Becoming an essential caregiver meant Judy could regularly visit her mother at Forest Hill after meeting all the requirements.

After many months of not being able to see her mother in person at Forest Hill, Judy says being an essential caregiver for her mom has been comforting.

“Just to be able to spend time with my mom, to chat with her, to bring her in her favourite candy, or telling her about what the rest of the family has been doing, has meant a lot,” she says.

Judy says being an essential caregiver for her mother has also provided opportunities to become closer with the Forest Hill staff members.

“We are all experiencing (the pandemic) together – (the staff) also have a home life with families and (the pandemic) has been affecting them too,” she says.

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Garden Terrace dunk tank delivers fun and laughter while raising money for Alzheimer Society

July 29 event that got staff members soaked while raising money for charity

Garden Terrace residents had a “splash” on July 29 when they had a chance to get the Kanata, Ont. long-term care home’s staff members soaked in a dunk tank.

The event also raised $199 for the local chapter of the Alzheimer Society of Canada.

Rachael King, Garden Terrace’s life enrichment co-ordinator, says the home was looking for a way to marry fundraising with an activity that would be fun for residents and bring back fond memories.

Hiring a dunk tank was the perfect fit, she says.

“This was something that brings back the fun people may have had as children – it got the residents to reminisce and they had a lot of fun,” she tells The OMNIway.

“The residents had a front-row view of all of us being dunked.”

The dunk tank was rented from a local rental company, Dunk Man. Lou Fast Food, a local chip truck, was also on-site at Garden Terrace for the day.

Staff members paid $5 for lunch from the chip truck and $3 to throw a ball at the dank-tank target to soak their colleagues. Lunch and throws at the dunk tank were free for residents. Proceeds from the dunk tank and chip truck will be going to the Alzheimer Society.

The local fire brigade came by to fill the dunk tank with water. Later on, the firefighters returned to Garden Terrace and volunteered to be dunked to help raise money for the Alzheimer Society.

Dunk tank day is one of the most recent outdoor events Garden Terrace has hosted to deliver some fun to residents during the pandemic.

“We’re trying to bring back some of the fun again after a really hard year,” she says.

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The Great Gatsby comes to life at Woodland Villa

Residents enjoy a themed day to celebrate the Roaring Twenties

The Roaring Twenties recently had a revival at Woodland Villa, when residents of the Long Sault, Ont. long-term care home were treated to a themed event based on one of the most popular novels of the era, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Spearheaded by life enrichment aides Melissa Cleary and Liana Charbonneau, the event featured residents dressing up in attire from the era, including masquerade masks and pearl necklaces, and the home’s activity room was richly decorated to mimic a speakeasy.

Melissa explains how the idea for the event was born.

“Every summer we brainstorm ideas for the residents, and we wanted to try something new,” she tells The OMNIway.

“We figured, why not do a Great Gatsby day for something new. 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.”

Due to restrictions in place to keep everyone safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing was in place with full safety precautions in effect.

Liana says residents enjoyed the event, adding they “loved” the decorations, food and music. The music brought back memories for residents, even if the 1920s were before their time.

“They all recognized the music and they were dancing to the songs,” she says, adding some residents had seen the 2013 film adaptation of The Great Gatsby, starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

“It was a really fun day for them.”

Liana says this was the first time the Woodland Villa life enrichment team organized an event based on a classic novel, but given the success of the Great Gatsby day, it’s something the team would consider building upon.

“We would do that again in the future, I think, that would be a great addition to our programming,” she says.

Melissa says The Great Gatsby proved to be the perfect classic novel to create a themed event around.

“People did recognize it, and others were interested to know what it was about, and once they learned about the book they came (to the program),” she says.

“We made the book come to life.”

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PHOTO CAPTION: Woodland Villa resident Lucille Lauzon is pictured here enjoying a theme day at the home centred on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– This is Part 1 of a two-part story.

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