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Being an essential caregiver ‘makes you feel like you’re a partner’

Karen Zidenberg says being with her mother at Maplewood has benefited them both

As an essential caregiver, Karen Zidenberg is at Maplewood with her mother, a resident of the Brighton, Ont. long-term care home, twice a week, spending one-to-one time with her mom and assisting with some of her care needs.

This has had a positive impact on Karen’s mother as well as Karen, who, like other family members, could not be inside the home during much of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It has been wonderful; it makes you feel like you’re a partner,” Karen says of being an essential caregiver.

Karen became an essential caregiver for her mother when she became eligible about a month ago.

Karen says she and her mother benefit from being able to see each other regularly. The essential caregiver role, she adds, is unique.

“What the essential caregiver role does is it gives recognition and it gives credence to people who can do as much as they can and be as active with their care as if they were in their own home,” Karen says.

Asked what she has learned about Maplewood throughout the pandemic, Karen says the most important thing has been the reinforcement of knowing her mother is well cared for.

“It has taught me that I don’t have to be there, that I can take care of myself and not burn myself out, and it taught me that things are going to be OK,” she says.

“As an essential caregiver, I can balance my life without worrying because I am not there.”

Karen also says the entire Maplewood team does an outstanding job caring for her mother.

“I am so thankful for everyone at Maplewood; I am so grateful and so thankful for each and every team member because I truly appreciate them,” she says.

Karen adds she has a “great relationship” with Maplewood.

“I will tell you that, hands down, I love the team, and I do what I can to show that appreciation the best that I can because I really think people (working in long-term care homes) are not appreciated enough for what they’re going through and how they have endured,” she says.

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

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Strong communication with Maplewood has made coping with the pandemic easier, says family member

‘The staff really came through,’ says Karen Zidenberg

When the COVID-19 pandemic began 16 months ago, Karen Zidenberg recalls the uncertainty and concern she and other family members of Maplewood residents were experiencing.

After all, the world had not faced a pandemic of this magnitude in 100 years, and there was a lot the experts didn’t know about the virus.

Following pandemic protocols, Ontario long-term care homes went into lockdown and residents were unable to visit with their loved ones.

“When it first began, it was a really strange time and it was really hard not to be able to see my mom; that was a real transition,” Karen recalls.

“That was a very challenging time, but I knew (Maplewood was closed) for all the right reasons. I felt it was in everyone’s best interest for the homes to be shut down. We didn’t know enough about the virus and everyone was pretty vulnerable.”

But from Day 1, Maplewood team members were there for family members, Karen says.

Communication between the Brighton, Ont. long-term care home’s staff, led by administrator Rachel Corkery, and residents’ family members helped make a challenging time easier to deal with, she adds.

“The communication was fabulous,” Karen says.

“I was encouraged to call the nursing station any time I wanted to find out how my mom was doing. Rachel was amazing at keeping us as informed as she could, given the circumstances.

“If I had a question, Rachel was always available to help, or I could always call the home. The staff really came through.”

Karen adds that she knew her mother was safe and in good hands at Maplewood and that gave her peace of mind.

“They gave me the sense that I could sleep at night,” she says.

Karen recently became an essential caregiver to her mother at Maplewood. About a month ago, she went into the home for the first time since the pandemic began.

“It was like nothing ever changed,” Karen says. “She is in the best possible hands. I’ve said that before, but I think it has really sunk in.”

– This is Part 1 of a two-part story

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Maplewood family member reflects on what it has meant to be an essential caregiver

Patricia Brown also applauds the strong support she and her mother have received from staff

Patricia Brown says being an essential caregiver to her mother, a Maplewood resident, during the COVID-19 pandemic has been important.

The Ontario Ministry of Health defines essential caregivers as “persons providing direct care to the resident (in ways such as) supporting feeding, mobility, personal hygiene, cognitive stimulation, communication, meaningful connection, relational continuity and assistance in decision-making, per Ministry guidance.”

Currently, residents are allowed up to two designated essential caregivers. Patricia and her sister are their mother’s designated essential caregivers.

As an essential caregiver, Patricia is able to visit her mother, an eight-year resident of the Brighton, Ont. long-term care home, and assist with her care.

Before the ministry allowed long-term care homes to have designated essential caregivers for residents, Patricia, like other family members, was not able to visit Maplewood.

This was a challenging time, Patricia says. Being at Maplewood has been comforting for both her and her mother, she adds.

“As far as our role now, it’s mainly making sure (our mother) is comfortable,” Patricia tells The OMNIway. “It’s mainly letting her know that we’re still there for her. We want to make sure that she knows that we’re there for her.”

Patricia is also applauding Maplewood team members and administrator Rachel Corkery for the care they provided her mother when she and her sister couldn’t be there.

For example, when Patricia’s mother’s birthday was approaching, life enrichment aide Lynanne Campbell trimmed her hair for her birthday photo, which was important to Patricia’s mother.

Acts of kindness like this add up, and the kindness Maplewood team members have shown Patricia’s mother has been comforting to Patricia and her family.

“It has meant an awful lot,” Patricia says.

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

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‘When we walked into Maplewood, we could smell dinner cooking’

Family member Patricia Brown discusses why Maplewood has been the right long-term care home for her mother

Patricia Brown recalls visiting Maplewood for the first time with her sister when they were looking for a new long-term care home for their mother.

When they stepped inside Maplewood, Patricia says it instantly felt “like home.”

“When we walked into Maplewood, we could smell dinner cooking,” Patricia tells The OMNIway. “There were people in the hallways – they weren’t in their rooms, they were walking around. … That was why we put Maplewood as No. 1 on our list.”

Located in Brighton, Ont., Maplewood is an older long-term care home. With 49 beds, it’s also a small home. Patricia says she and her family look at Maplewood’s size and age as attributes that give it the homey feel her mother wants.

Patricia’s mother moved into Maplewood eight years ago. Since then, Patricia says Maplewood has continued to feel like home for her mother.

When the COVID-19 pandemic was declared in March 2020, family members could not visit their loved ones living in long-term care homes for safety reasons.

While this sudden change was challenging for residents and their families to adjust to, Patricia says Maplewood administrator Rachel Corkery kept families updated, and staff members continued providing residents with top-notch care.

“I must say, I have absolute respect for Maplewood as a whole,” Patricia says. “Their staff has gone way beyond trying to make things work and understanding the situation. I think a lot of that is because they are a small home.”

Patricia says one thing the pandemic has taught her about Maplewood is the lengths the home will go to for family members.

“They went beyond what I was expecting,” she says. It wouldn’t matter what it would be, we could always approach Rachel.”

Maplewood’s front-line staff members, Patricia adds, have also “been fantastic” – both before and during the pandemic.

“The staff at Maplewood rolls with the punches,” she says. “They have been fantastic.”

– This is Part 1 of a two-part story.

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.

Special theme day gives Maplewood residents a taste of the Wild West

The walls of Maplewood were recently covered with Wild West-style wanted posters featuring photos of residents and staff members at the Brighton, Ont. long-term care home.

It was part of a Western-themed day organized on June 18 by Rosanne Blackburn, a life enrichment aide (LEA) at the home who is often coming up with creative, fun and engaging programming ideas.

In addition to the wanted posters was a “cowboy photo booth” where people could have fun pictures taken. Residents could also enjoy a drink while playing horseshoes.

For lunch, the nutritional care team prepared a Western-themed meal.

“The kitchen staff prepared ‘cowboy casserole’ and chicken chili for the menu,” Rosanne tells The OMNIway. “Staff also dressed up and the residents wore cowboy hats.”

A group of team members, dressed in their finest cowgirl gear, did a dance for residents after being ushered in by Maplewood administrator and life enrichment co-ordinator Rachel Corkery.

“Rachel introduced us cowgirls with our special cowgirl names just before lunchtime,” Rosanne says.

Rosanne adds that the fun continued over the weekend, with LEA Lynanne Campbell making banana splits for everyone on Father’s Day.

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Maplewood residents treated to in-home Christmas parade

The event went over so well, plans are in the works to host another parade next holiday season

Life enrichment aide Rosanne Blackburn and her colleagues at Maplewood are known for coming up with creative ideas to enhance the quality of life for residents at the Brighton, Ont. long-term care home, and just before Christmas they organized another engaging event that put smiles on lots of faces: an in-home Santa Claus parade.

On Dec. 23, Rosanne and the life enrichment team decorated an antique crib to look like a sleigh. Inside the sleigh was a Santa Claus figure with lights along with snowmen and wrapped gift boxes.

One resident, dressed in a Santa Claus outfit, walked behind the sleigh, while another resident, dressed as Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, led the procession in a motorized scooter that was fitted with Christmas lights.

The parade went down a hallway and into the dining room, just before lunch was served. Traditional Christmas band music was played as the parade made its way through the home. There were seven participants in the parade.

Rosanne says the sight of the Santa Claus parade drew lots of cheers from residents as they watched the procession.

“All the residents enjoyed the parade as they waved with smiles,” Rosanne tells The OMNIway, adding the parade was planned for lunchtime to ensure most residents could watch.

Rosanne says the parade went over so well with residents she plans to make the event a Christmas tradition at Maplewood.

“This was our first Christmas parade, and it was such a success that we will continue it next year,” she says.

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Four-year-old gets birthday wish of spending the day with ‘her people’ at Maplewood

Avery Smith Kargus celebrated her special day outside the home with residents watching on

Four-year-old Avery Smith Kargus considers the people living at Maplewood as “her people.”

For the past two years when Avery’s birthday has rolled around, she has requested her party be held at the Brighton, Ont. long-term care home where her mother, Paula Smith Kargus, works as a personal support worker.

However, due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, Avery has not been able to visit “her people” for the past nine months.

Still, Avery wanted her birthday plans to include Maplewood, so she and Paula had to think of a different way of celebrating her special day.

Last year, Avery’s birthday party was held at Maplewood. Maplewood administrator and life enrichment co-ordinator Rachel Corkery recalls the day being “so much fun for everyone.”

Although they couldn’t have Avery’s party inside Maplewood this year, they could, Avery and Paula discovered, have a celebration outside the home.

So that’s what they did.

On Dec. 5, Paula brought a birthday cake to Maplewood for residents to enjoy, and Avery visited residents from outside their windows.

“Although Avery was disappointed that she couldn’t come inside to visit her friends, she was happy that ‘her people’ got birthday cake, and her friends were so happy to sing Happy Birthday for Avery,” Rachel tells The OMNIway.

Rachel notes that the community also stepped in to help Avery celebrate her special day.

When Paula mentioned that Avery wanted a police car for her birthday, a Maplewood team member contacted the local OPP detachment and arranged for police to drive by her home with their sirens sounding.

Rachel says the kindness shown towards Avery is part and parcel of what Maplewood is all about.

“We truly are the Maplewood family here,” she says.

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Maplewood residents judge spooky Halloween trunk contest

Maplewood residents went “trunk-or-treating” recently.

The Brighton, Ont. long-term care home’s life enrichment team came up with a creative way to engage residents in a fun activity just before Halloween.

Staff members were encouraged to decorate the trunks of their cars with a Halloween motif. The designs were presented on Oct. 29 for residents to judge in a contest to decide their favourite design.

The staff members’ vehicles were parked on the home’s front lawn and residents were invited to the patio after lunch for a viewing and some Halloween sweets, explains Maplewood life enrichment aide Rosanne Blackburn.

There were six designs for residents to choose from, including one resident’s bicycle which had been decorated with a Halloween witch in the seat.

Cook Jackie Jeffery won first place in the contest for her design which featured a graveyard flanked by two ghoulish spectres.

The contest was also an opportunity for Maplewood residents to participate in a safe activity that also captured the Halloween spirit, Rosanne says.

“The residents really enjoyed (the contest),” she says.

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Maplewood residents help make realistic front yard fall display

‘We have had quite a few people walk by and stop to look at the display, so the residents are proud’

Applefest may have been cancelled in the town of Brighton due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but that didn’t stop Maplewood residents and staff from pitching in to keep the spirit of the annual celebration of all things apple alive.

Applefest is a flagship event held every September in Brighton that features a street fair, a parade and a variety of entertainment, and Maplewood residents and staff members always attend.

To keep things safe during the pandemic, the municipality encouraged local businesses to create festive autumn displays on their property, so the folks at Maplewood decided to get in on the action.

Residents and life enrichment aide Rosanne Blackburn created a front yard scene that features a very lifelike display of a Maplewood nurse and a resident – both wearing face masks to promote safety – surrounding a table covered with apples and a bag of flour to make apple pies.

Residents were involved with creating the display by helping with crafts, such as colouring foam balls red and green to make the apples.

They also glued the foam apples to a cupcake stand Rosanne gave them so the replica fruit wouldn’t blow away.

There’s even a homemade apple tree with laminated apples dangling from it the residents made, and the flour bag included in the display was crafted by residents from a potato sack.

With social distancing protocols in effect, Rosanne brought a few residents outside to stuff the display nurse with garbage bags, and residents decided on how everything was arranged.

Rosanne says the display is so realistic some pedestrians have had to look twice when passing by.

“We have had quite a few people walk by and stop to look at the display, so the residents are proud,” she says.

The display was completed Sept. 18 and will remain on Maplewood’s front lawn for the next few days.

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Local musical duo brings lunchtime entertainment to Maplewood residents

‘This is definitely a lunch experience to write home about’

A local favourite vocal-guitar duo stopped by Maplewood on Aug. 12 to provide some safe outdoor lunchtime entertainment for the Brighton, Ont. long-term care home’s residents.

The performance on Maplewood’s front lawn from Ray Herbert and Ralph de Jonge, who call themselves R and R, was so moving that Rachel Corkery, Maplewood’s administrator, was inspired to send out an e-mail to The OMNIway as well as residents’ families as she watched.

“As I write this email I am listening to the glorious music that R and R are playing for our residents,” she writes. “Our residents and staff are so excited for this day.”

While R and R performed, residents got to enjoy a barbecue lunch along with blueberry smoothies.

Indoor entertainment and large-group programming have been suspended in OMNI Health Care’s 18 long-term care homes since the global COVID-19 pandemic began in March in an effort to keep residents and staff members safe from the highly contagious virus.

Being able to provide safe outdoor entertainment for residents was a welcome change.

“This is definitely a lunch experience to write home about,” Rachel says.

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