Willows residents attend their first church service in two years, just before Easter

Willows Estate was able to host a church service on April 14, the first since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, which was well-received by residents of the Aurora, Ont. long-term care home.

Teddy Mazzuca, the home’s life enrichment co-ordinator, says “the residents were overjoyed” at being able to attend the service, which was provided by Trinity Anglican Church, just before the Easter weekend.

The church had contacted the home earlier to offer the service to residents.

“When they called, it just so happened we were able to have them back in, so we had a nice group that came out to the service at 2 o’clock … and we were able to get our piano back into the room, so they played a lot of the church music and they sang, and being that Good Friday (was the next day) it was perfect timing,” Teddy tells The OMNIway.

Throughout the duration of the service, pandemic protocols, such as social distancing and mask-wearing, were in place. About 15 residents were able to attend the service.

Given the success of the first service, the Willows team has invited the people from Trinity Anglican back to the home for monthly services.

While having the ability to bring back a church service is a small step forward, Teddy says it had a “huge” impact on residents.

“You could see the residents relaxing, and they got to see some of their friends who they haven’t been able to see,” she says.

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Bunny visit merges Easter programming with pet therapy at the Willows

LEA Bobbi Wright dressed as the Easter bunny visited residents – and was accompanied by a real bunny

The Willows Estate team married an Easter activity with a pet therapy program on April 13 when two bunnies visited the Aurora, Ont. long-term care home’s residents.

One of the bunnies was in costume. Life enrichment aide (LEA) Bobbi Wright put on an Easter bunny outfit that day and strolled around the Willows, visiting residents and wishing them a happy Easter.

She also brought her daughter’s pet rabbit to the home that day and was able to bring residents some much-appreciated pet therapy.

When Bobbi visited residents as the Easter bunny, they were able to have some time with the real bunny.

Residents were able to pet and cuddle the rabbit with their hands, which had a positive impact on everyone, says Teddy Mazzuca, the home’s life enrichment co-ordinator (LEC).

“The residents were really petting the bunny, and I was so impressed,” she tells The OMNIway. “It turned out so well – it was so nice that we could do this.”

This was the first Easter Willows Estate had a bunny visit, Teddy says.

“I don’t believe in my time we’ve had a bunny here, so this was nice,” she says. “Bobbi was willing to bring the bunny in, which was so nice of her.”

While it was Teddy who came up with the idea for the Easter program, she underscores that all activities at the home result from strong teamwork.

“It’s always a joint effort at the Willows,” she says.

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Willows Estate cook proves to be a natural at the job

Denise Thomas’s adaptability to her first LTC position ‘was so good; it was like she had been working here for years’

While working as a cook at Willows Estate is the first position in a long-term care home Denise Thomas has held, she has mastered the job after only six months, says her supervisor.

Denise says she worked a variety of jobs, including stints at Canadian Tire, a factory and a movie theatre, before starting at the Willows last summer.

She also has a passion for cooking and a certificate in food services, so when Denise heard about a job opening at the Aurora, Ont. long-term care home she decided to apply for the position.

Once she received her initial training, Denise says she transitioned seamlessly into her new job.

“I learn very quickly,” she tells The OMNIway. “I do everything on my own, I do the prepping, I do the baking, and I find learning things easy.”

As much as Denise says she enjoys cooking for the residents of Willows Estate, it’s the reaction she sees from residents when they’re enjoying a meal she’s created that truly makes her job fulfilling, she says.

“I like making them happy and seeing them eat,” she says. “When I see them eat, it makes me happy.”

Asked what her favourite meal is to cook for residents, Denise says she can’t pin down just one. All that matters, she says, is that the residents love the meals they are served.

“I like making everything, and everything I make I think the residents enjoy,” she says.

Denise’s supervisor, nutritional care manager Jeffrey Peters, says Denise is an “excellent” cook and he applauds her ability to learn new things quickly.

“Her adaptability was so good; it was like she had been working here for years,” he says. “She is very attentive, very teachable, (and) if you teach her something she will just take it and run with it.”

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Dietary aide brings cruise-ship-style hospitality to Willows Estate

Roseann Evans brings the skills she learned on the high seas to the home’s residents

Before starting a position as a dietary aide at Willows Estate a year ago, Roseann Evans worked as a supervisor on a cruise ship, and she has taken the skills she learned on the high seas to the Aurora, Ont. long-term care home to enhance residents’ dining experience.

Like many long-term care homes, the Willows serves residents with diverse dietary needs. Some residents require pureed meals, while others have food allergies. Some residents also require meals that are halal, meaning the food adheres to Islamic law.

During her 17 years working on cruise ships, Roseann served many guests who also had special dietary needs as well. As a supervisor, it was her job to relay information about special diets between guests and the chefs to ensure guests’ needs were met.

Whether working in a long-term care home or on a cruise ship, the job is “hands-on,” Roseann says.

“You have to know your guests, know their preference, read their body language, but (in long-term care) you also have to be very patient,” she says.

“(On a cruise ship) you want your guests to be satisfied, and here you want the residents to be satisfied.”

Making the shift from working on cruise ships to working in a long-term care home has come with rewards, Roseann says, noting working at the Willows has given her the opportunity to ensure residents receive high-quality meal service.

And there’s also that personal touch that comes with working in a long-term care home.

“It’s a rewarding job, especially when you see the smiles on the residents’ faces and they call you by your name, that’s the thing for me,” Roseann says.

Jeffrey Peters, the nutritional care manager at Willows Estate, praises Roseann for the service she brings residents, noting she is always putting the residents first.

“Roseann always goes above and beyond to make sure the residents are always getting what they want,” he says.
 
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PHOTO CAPTION: Dietary aide Roseann Evans is pictured here during a recent shift at Willows Estate.


Willows NCM describes first 7 months on the job as a ‘wonderful learning experience’

‘Every day has its challenges and your heart and your soul has got to be in it’

When asked to summarize his first seven months as the nutritional care manager (NCM) at Willows Estate, Jeffrey Peters says it has been “an experience.”

“It has been an experience, a wonderful learning experience, that would be my summary,” Jeffrey tells The OMNIway.

Before making the transition to working in long-term care homes seven years ago, Jeffrey worked in the kitchens of restaurants, hotels and catering services.

Working in long-term care homes, he says, is a career with a strong purpose and a chance to make a meaningful difference in the lives of many people.

“Every day has its challenges and your heart and your soul has got to be in it,” he says.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, working in the long-term care sector has meant people have to be able to adapt and do it well, Jeffrey says. One thing that must remain constant, he adds, is the high level of quality meal service that residents expect.

Indeed, Jeffrey has shown he has the heart and soul for this position. He takes pride in the meals he and the nutritional care team at the Aurora, Ont. long-term care home create for the residents they serve.

While the focus on creating and presenting high-quality meals for residents is always top of mind for Jeffrey and his team, special occasions are opportunities to go above and beyond.

Most recently, Jeffrey and the Willows’ nutritional care team organized a Christmas dinner for residents that resulted in a wide array of dishes that residents enjoyed including a traditional roast turkey, homemade stuffing, honey-Pommery-mustard-glazed salmon, honey-glazed ham, roasted garlic shrimp, braised cabbage, Brussels sprouts with double-smoked bacon and fingerling potatoes.

Asked about future plans, Jeffrey, who is proud of the amount of from-scratch meals he and his colleagues create, says one thing he wants to do is dispel the negative myths surrounding food in long-term care homes.

“We do a lot of made-from-scratch food here, and, in fact, I would even like to write a book about long-term-care home food to shed some light on how good it can be,” he says.

“I want to give our food a voice.”

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Residents applaud return of live entertainment to Willows Estate in December

‘The place was rocking,’ says Aurora long-term care home LEC

Life enrichment co-ordinator (LEC) Teddy Mazzuca’s voice is full of enthusiasm when she speaks about the joy the return of live entertainment has brought to residents of Willows Estate.

Kenny Joseph, a country singer and guitar player, brought smiles to residents’ faces and some to their feet to dance during an early December activity at the 84-bed Aurora long-term care home.

The musician’s visit was the first live entertainment offered inside the home by a community performer since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020.

“The place was rocking,” Teddy tells The OMNIway.

“I was so thrilled. The residents came to life. You could literally see them coming alive before your eyes.”

Teddy says for some of the home’s residents, this was their first experience with live entertainment in the home because they moved in recently or after the pandemic’s onset.

“They were up dancing … with just big smiles on their faces.”

To keep residents safe, there was a Plexiglas divider separating the home’s first-floor and second-floor residents, as well as a Plexiglas divider between residents and the entertainer.

Teddy says it has been “a bit challenging” going for so long without this type of entertainment.

“In the beginning (of the pandemic), we were doing a lot of one-to-ones with the residents, so they still got to see us, but it’s not the same.”

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‘Extravagant,’ made-from-scratch Christmas dinner was just what Willows residents needed: NCM

Jeffrey Peters and the nutritional care department capped off 2021 with a memorable meal

When it came to planning and preparing his first Christmas dinner at Willows Estate, nutritional care manager (NCM) Jeffrey Peters wanted to go big – and his bold ambition to create a five-star meal that residents of the Aurora, Ont. long-term care home would remember paid off.

Knowing how important high-quality meals are to residents and how much residents enjoy the holidays, Jeffrey, who became the NCM at the Willows in 2021, says he wanted the first Christmas meal he organized at the home to be extra special.

“Everything we made was from scratch,” he tells The OMNIway. “We had so many things on the menu.”

Included on the Christmas Day dinner menu was a traditional roast turkey, homemade stuffing, honey-Pommery-mustard-glazed salmon, honey-glazed ham, roasted garlic shrimp, braised cabbage, Brussels sprouts with double-smoked bacon and fingerling potatoes.

For dessert, Jeffrey and the nutritional care team went with the classic Christmas treat: plum pudding with a brandy sauce.

Jeffrey says the work he and the nutritional care team put into the Christmas dinner was well worth it. The residents ate well and enjoyed everything, he notes.

Given that this marked the end of the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jeffrey says residents deserved a top-notch holiday meal to help celebrate the season in an uplifting manner.

On top of the meal the nutritional care team prepared and served, Jeffrey says Willows Estate team members also went all out decorating the home to give it a festive atmosphere.

The “extravagant” meal and festive decorations had a positive impact on residents, Jeffrey says.

“The residents loved it – everybody was enjoying it, I think it was something different for them, something they needed,” he says. “We wanted to make sure they were presented with a nice meal.”

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’Tis the season for ugly Christmas sweaters, pass the present game at Willows Estate

Aurora long-term care home’s nutritional care manager plans elaborate meal for Dec. 25

With staff donning “ugly Christmas sweaters” and residents playing “pass the present”, the holiday season is underway at Willows Estate.

To residents’ delight, the 84-bed Aurora long-term care home recently hosted an ugly sweater contest for staff.

Employees donned their ugliest apparel, and a winner and runner-up were named. Staff also enjoyed a luncheon following the contest, notes Teddy Mazzuca, the life enrichment co-ordinator (LEC) at Willows Estate.

“The residents did love (the ugly sweater contest),” Teddy says. “They enjoyed seeing the staff.”

Teddy says she’s looking forward to offering a new game for residents during the week of Christmas called pass the present.

Like the hot potato game, residents sit in a circle and pass the item around while music plays.

However, when the music stops, the resident holding the present gets to open and keep the gift – unlike hot potato during which the person left holding the potato when the music stops is out of the game.

“We’re hoping that most residents will get a small present,” Teddy says.

Meanwhile, in the nutritional care department, nutritional care manager (NCM) Jeffrey Peters and staff will be serving a special meal on Christmas Day.

“We’ll have your traditional roasted turkey with all of the trimmings,” Jeffrey tells The OMNIway.

Dinner will include turkey, pineapple-glazed ham, garlic mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts with double-smoked bacon, mustard and honey roasted salmon, and herb and garlic oven-baked shrimp. Plum pudding with a crème caramel sauce, eggnog ice cream and seasonal fruit are on the menu for dessert.

“It’s pretty elaborate,” the NCM says.

“Part of it is also to say thank you to the staff too,” says Jeffrey, noting, there will be food for employees working Christmas Day.

Preparation for Dec. 25 will begin Christmas Eve and includes making the brine for the turkey, marinating the salmon, and prepping the vegetables. “Everything needs to be marinated in advance to optimize the best flavour possible,” the NCM notes.

“Then the day of … we just rock and roll.”

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Willows Estate is celebrating three resident centenarians this holiday season

Hamedian Ali, Mildred Bowen and Ellison Milne all turned 100 in 2021

The holiday season at Willows Estate is extra special this year, as the Aurora, Ont. long-term care home is also celebrating its three most senior residents who turned 100 in 2021.

Team members at the Willows recently took a holiday photo of the three residents, Hamedian Ali, Mildred Bowen and Ellison Milne, who were dressed in Santa Claus caps and posed in front of a Christmas tree.

The three ladies reached their milestone birthdays within recent months, and their family members and Willows Estate staff helped them celebrate their special days when they arrived, notes Teddy Mazzuca, the home’s life enrichment co-ordinator.

Ellison’s family members helped the Willows team host a tea party to celebrate her birthday, complete with fancy china cups. Her daughter also brought in a cake and lots of photos of Ellison – who is affectionately called “Ellie” – to share with everyone and celebrate her mother’s life.

Hamedian’s family and Willows staff members celebrated her birthday by organizing a patio lunch for her.

Mildred’s 100th birthday was also celebrated at the Willows.

Teddy says all three of the centenarians are active and enjoy participating in programs and events.

“They’re all very involved at the home,” she 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.