Residents and team members mark Residents’ Council Week at the Willows

‘I think we focused more on Residents’ Council Week this year, just because we’re trying to get back into the swing of things’

Willows Estate residents and team members celebrated Residents’ Council Week with a variety of fun and informative events, including a tea, a photo booth and the unveiling of a display wall.

Residents’ Council Week was Sept. 12-18. The week, organized each year by the Ontario Association of Residents’ Councils (OARC), aims to raise awareness about the important role residents’ councils play in long-term care homes.

Residents’ councils are mandated by the Ministry of Long-Term Care and serve to empower residents and help them make the most of their experience living in long-term care homes.

Teddy Mazzuca, the life enrichment co-ordinator at the Aurora, Ont. long-term care home, says the tea party hosted in honour of the week had a large turnout. To make the event even more special, team members brought out the home’s best china, she adds.

OARC, which included social events in its recommendations of events for residents’ councils to host, provided special placemats.

There was also trivia about the residents’ council for team members, who demonstrated a strong degree of knowledge about the council, Teddy says.

Questions centred on areas including naming resident leaders and knowing how often the council meets and where. The idea behind the trivia was to ensure everyone was well informed about the residents’ council, Teddy says.

“Most of my group knew (a lot) and I was so proud of them,” she says.

On Sept. 15, a photo booth was set up for residents and team members to take their pictures, and lots of fun was had throughout the day, Teddy says.

Additionally, a display wall was set up to share information about Residents’ Council Week. The display included the 29 rights listed in the Residents’ Bill of Rights.

Teddy says that although Willows Estate celebrates Residents’ Council Week every year, this year’s event had a great presence, a fact she attributes to pandemic restrictions easing this year.

“I think we focused more on Residents’ Council Week this year, just because we’re trying to get back into the swing of things,” she says.

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Classic St. Patrick’s Day meal is one of Willows chef’s specialties

Diana Payne submitted her corned beef and cabbage recipe to OMNI’s March Madness recipe challenge

St. Patrick’s Day served as the inspiration behind Willows Estate chef Diana Payne’s delicious recipe submission for OMNI Health Care’s March Madness recipe challenge.

Corned beef and cabbage is a classic recipe served on St. Patrick’s Day, and Diana prepared her version of this fan-favourite meal for the residents of the Aurora, Ont. long-term care home on March 17, right around the time she submitted her recipe.

It’s a colourful, flavourful meal that Diana is rightfully proud to serve.

She starts by thinly slicing meat from a corned beef roast she then fries in butter. Next, Diana will sauté sliced cabbage, onions and carrots in butter and olive oil until the cabbage begins to brown.

She seasons the cabbage, onion and carrots – which reflect the green, white and orange colours of Ireland’s flag – with salt and pepper and serves the veggies with the meat.

“(I) planned the menu down to the detail, including making a pitcher of green beer to serve with lunch,” Diana says.

Accompanying her corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day were lemon cupcakes with green buttercream icing.

Chris Weber, OMNI’s operations manager of nutrition and food service, says the March Madness contest, which saw 16 recipes compete in a bracket contest where votes were cast each week between April 14 and May 6, was close.

The winning entry was a Mediterranean omelette, created by Josephine Goddard at Country Terrace, which won “by a very thin margin,” Chris says.

OMNI launched the first annual March Madness recipe challenge in March in recognition of Nutrition Month in Canada.

Chris came up with the idea to encourage nutritional care managers and cooks to showcase their most-loved recipes and to highlight the high-quality meals served in OMNI homes.

Throughout March, nutritional care managers and cooks prepared their favourite meals, plated them and took photos that were sent to head office. The photos were accompanied by the name of each meal and its recipe.

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Steak salad makes a return to Willows menu – and scores big in March Madness contest

This fan-favourite recipe, which combines many sweet and savoury flavours, was one of the Top 4 finalists

A steak salad packed with a variety of flavours and textures was so popular with Willows Estate residents when first introduced several months ago, Jeffrey Peters, the Aurora, Ont. long-term care home’s nutritional care manager, decided to put it back on the menu.

But this steak salad’s story isn’t over.

The meal was such a big hit with everyone at the Willows that Jeffrey decided to enter the recipe in OMNI Health Care’s first annual March Madness recipe challenge. It finished among the Top 4 finalists.

Jeffrey describes this dish as “a very beautiful and vibrant salad with an Asian influence, full of colour and texture.”

The salad includes slices of New York strip loin steak served on a bed of organic greens along with a composite of onions, strawberries, cucumber, cranberries, cherry tomatoes, carrots and toasted almonds.

This melange of flavours and textures is topped with a slice of toasted garlic baguette. The salad is served with an Asian-style dressing and a slice of chilled peach as a garnish.

“Everything was hand-cut and carefully put together for a tasteful experience: New York steak marinated to perfection and a fresh summer salad packed with healthy ingredients and vibrant colour,” Jeffrey says.

Chris Weber, OMNI’s operations manager of nutrition and food service, says the March Madness contest, which saw 16 recipes compete in a bracket contest where votes were cast each week between April 14 and May 6, was close.

The winning entry was a Mediterranean omelette, created by Josephine Goddard at Country Terrace, which won “by a very thin margin,” Chris says.

OMNI launched the first annual March Madness recipe challenge in March in recognition of Nutrition Month in Canada.

Chris came up with the idea to encourage nutritional care managers and cooks to showcase their most-loved recipes and to highlight the high-quality meals served in OMNI’s 18 long-term care homes.

Throughout March, nutritional care managers and cooks prepared their favourite meals, plated them and took photos that were sent to head office. The photos were accompanied by the name of each meal and its recipe.

If you have a story you would like to share with The OMNIway, please contact the newsroom at deron(at)axiomnews.com.

If you have feedback on this story, please contact the newsroom at deron(at)axiomnews.com.

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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