In-home visits have been a ‘game-changer’ for residents’ emotional well-being: LEA

Azaria Kanda says some Willows Estate residents had not seen their family members in months, and new visitation rules have had a positive impact

When it comes to residents and their loved ones seeing each other, nothing is better than them being in the same room, says Azaria Kanda, a life enrichment aide at Willows Estate.

Every time the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care eases restrictions in place on visitation, Azaria says he sees an upswing in residents’ emotional health and well-being – and even a decrease in agitation.

When the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 pandemic in March, Ontario long-term care homes put protocols in place restricting non-essential in-home visits to prevent the spread of the contagious virus.

During this time, staff members at the Willows (and other OMNI Health Care long-term care homes) began organizing video conferencing meetings between residents and their loved ones so they could keep in touch.

In spring, restrictions relaxed to allow residents and their families to have outdoor visits with social distancing and screening measures in place. As a result, patios and other outdoor areas were opened so residents and their families could safely visit, as long as visitors could prove negative COVID-19 test results from within the previous two weeks and wore face masks.

In mid-June, restrictions eased again to allow in-home visits between residents and one family member at a time, with visitors still required to wear face masks.

Some residents had not seen their loved ones in more than six months, Azaria says.

“The ability for residents to get back in touch with their loved ones for indoor visits has been really therapeutic for them,” he tells The OMNIway.

“Nothing beats seeing (a loved one) in person. To see their loved ones … (has) really been a game-changer, it really has improved their emotional well-being.

“They’re happier, they’re looking forward to seeing their family members again, one at a time. It’s been the light at the end of the tunnel.”

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How ping pong is making a difference to one Willows Estate resident

Luis Martins often reminisces about his days playing the game while a soldier in the Portuguese army

If there’s one thing Willows Estate resident Luis Martins enjoys, it’s a good game of ping pong.

It’s a game he picked up as a young soldier in the Portuguese army. He and his fellow troops would ping pong to pass the time as well as to unwind from the stress that can come with a soldier’s life.

Today, ping pong is a game Luis loves to play at the Aurora, Ont. long-term care home. He and Willows Estate life enrichment aide (LEA) Azaria Kanda can sometimes be found playing a match or two.

While the Willows does not have a ping pong table, Azaria has fashioned one out of two tables and a portable net.

Azaria says he and Luis will have interesting conversations in between sets, often about Luis’s life growing up in Portugal.

“He recounts why he decided to join the army as a young chap, where in the world those mandatory training camps took him, including Angola, Brazil and other formerly owned Portuguese colonies,” Azaria tells The OMNIway.

While Luis is, by nature, a quiet man, a game of ping pong can be a vehicle that prompts him to open up and start talking, Azaria notes.

Lately, Luis and Azaria have been playing ping pong about once a week, and the time the two spend together playing the game has a positive impact on Luis, the LEA adds.

“It allows him to be active in both physical and mental ways,” Azaria says. “He’s able to, I find, express who he is and used to be.”

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Safe reading and discussion groups restart at Willows Estate

Residents enjoy discussing current events, and having this program back has been important to them, says LEA

Willows Estate life enrichment aide (LEA) Azaria Kanda has restarted a long-popular reading and discussion group for the Aurora, Ont. long-term care home’s residents with social-distancing in place.

Azaria says reading and keeping up to date with current issues and events is a favourite activity for residents, and it’s a passion he shares with them.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic began in March, there were regular group reading and discussion groups for residents. However, because group programming was suspended in Ontario long-term care homes for three months after the pandemic began, the groups were not able to meet.

With restrictions easing, Azaria has been hosting two smaller reading-discussion groups on both floors at the Willows, with social distancing in effect.

During the discussions, residents talk about subjects ranging from politics to sports. But stories about current events residents read in newspapers are the favourite, Azaria says.

“The residents are very aware and they really stay on top of the headlines – and I think it’s one thing for them to hear or read about (news) and it’s another thing for them to expand on that (with discussions) to give their point of view and to talk amongst one another,” he says.

Indeed, there has been a lot to talk about in 2020. Aside from the pandemic, there has been increased awareness about racial injustice and mounting concern about the state of the economy.

“Those three topics have really been at the forefront,” Azaria says.

During the week ending Sept. 12, the groups talked about the pandemic. Last week they discussed racial injustices. This week they are scheduled to talk about the economic situation.

“A lot of the residents were born in the 1920s or 1930s, so they’ve lived through many decades, and there’s always a common thread to find because each generation has had its (struggles), whether that be war or political turmoil,” Azaria says.

“So, it’s really interesting to talk about that common thread, to talk about what’s happening now, and a lot of the residents don’t find it that surprising to be going through this because they’ve gone through major cultural shifting moments before.”

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The Willows’ much-loved resident pianist is back behind the keys

“Mr. Roger”, Willows Estate’s in-house pianist, performs for residents for the first time since March.

‘Mr. Roger’ had not played piano for residents since the pandemic began, and his recent socially-distanced performance was a big hit for residents

For the first time since the global COVID-19 pandemic began, a Willows Estate resident who has long been the Aurora, Ont. long-term care home’s resident pianist is once again tapping his fingers across the keys. Read more

Willows Estate team gets residents in the Canada Day spirit

It was a sea of red and white at Willows Estate on July 1 as the Aurora, Ont. long-term care home’s residents and staff members celebrated Canada Day together. Read more

Willows Estate activities different ‘but the spirit remains’

LEA says more one-to-one time at Aurora long-term care home

As the life enrichment aide (LEA) settles residents in for a movie and popcorn, he spends one-on-one time with another person on the floor where he works at Willows Estate. Read more

Willows Estate family member buys staff dinner

Employees enjoy surprise pizza delivery for all shifts

A Willows Estate family member recently picked up the tab to have several pizzas delivered to the Aurora long-term care. Read more

Willows Estate management treats staff to lunch

Willows Estate nutritional care manager Gary Rose is pictured here working the grill at the Aurora, Ont. long-term care home.

‘This gesture was immensely appreciated by everyone,’ says LEA

The commitment of being a front-line worker during the global COVID-19 pandemic is not going unnoticed by management at OMNI Health Care’s Aurora long-term care home. Read more

Willows Estate resident-made spaghetti dinner in March was ‘delizioso’

Activity in early March provides ownership over meals: LEC

Before the global COVID-19 pandemic was declared March 11, residents of Willows Estate got to make a special spaghetti dinner. Read more

We will get through this together, Willows Estate residents say

Home aims to keep residents calm, collected as the world faces COVID-19 crisis

Residents of Willows Estate have a heartfelt message for the world during this time of uncertainty. Read more