Emotional support is the greatest gift you can give as an essential caregiver: family member

‘It has made all the difference in the world; it’s just incredible,’ says Forest Hill family member Karen Germundson

Karen Germundson says becoming an essential caregiver for her father at Forest Hill “has made all the difference in the world” – both to her dad and to her.

A designated essential caregiver since last October, Karen visits her dad regularly at the Kanata, Ont. long-term care home. The greatest value she brings her father in this role, she says, is “emotional support.”

“He can tell things are changing and it scares him,” Karen tells The OMNIway. “So, I see my big role is to be there to help him on the days he’s really afraid and then providing that support.”

After the COVID-19 pandemic was declared by the World Health Organization in March 2020, long-term care homes across Ontario were closed to visitors to help keep residents safe.

As with other family members and residents, life enrichment co-ordinator Craig Forrest and the life enrichment staff would organize regular phone calls between Karen and her dad, which made things easier during a difficult time, Karen says.

But nothing compares to being at Forest Hill with her father, she adds.

“It has made all the difference in the world; it’s just incredible,” she says. “If he’s having a bad day, and I sense that, I can go back again, whereas before, Craig would set up the phone call, but that phone call would end and I couldn’t tell if my dad was still scared or upset about something. But this way, if I sense he needs me, I can go back, and that makes a huge difference.”

Karen says the support she and her father have received from staff members during the pandemic has reinforced the notion for her that Forest Hill has been the right home for her father.

“They really are focused on trying to make it like a home for the residents in every way,” she says. “The meals, activities, they have a beautiful patio – they really see the residents as individuals, with each having different needs, and they address those needs.”

– This is Part 2 of a two-part story. Click here to read Part 1.

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