LTC redevelopment support needs to stay on track to ensure resident safety and comfort

When the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 pandemic 17 months ago, those of us in the long-term care sector knew we had to brace ourselves.

It was evident early on that the sector would be put to the test. As with any serious virus, we knew COVID-19 had the potential to be especially devastating to the elder population and to those with complex health conditions.

While we had pandemic plans in place, there were many unknown factors surrounding COVID-19 we had to grapple with: How contagious was this virus? How can we protect residents without compromising their quality of life? How long would this last?

If there’s one thing the pandemic has taught us as a sector, it’s that as prepared as long-term care homes may be, as expertly trained and knowledgeable as home staff and managers are, the homes themselves must be spacious and equipped with modern features and amenities in order to offer maximum protection to residents.

The good news is the Ontario government has, since 2018, been investing in a capital redevelopment plan to upgrade the province’s older Class B and C long-term care communities to meet new home standards.

OMNI Health Care is grateful for the commitment the province has made to provide funding to support redevelopments that are underway at three of our long-term care homes – Almonte Country Haven, Pleasant Meadow Manor and Woodland Villa – as well as Country Terrace which is expected to be underway imminently.

The province has also committed redevelopment support for Riverview Manor, Streamway Villa and Village Green, which are currently in the design and planning process.

Amongst the many features that will come with these upgrades, perhaps the most important will be the improvement of personal space for residents through the elimination of three- and four-bed wards and the creation of home areas housing no more than 32 residents.

Not only will providing more space enhance residents’ quality of life, it will also improve infection control by reducing the number of residents living in close proximity to one another.

While progress has been made and shovels are in the ground for many of these projects, the momentum of the capital redevelopment plan needs to continue at full throttle.

Investing in long-term care now not only improves the quality of life for the residents of today, it will offer an added layer of safety for future residents.

The Great Gatsby comes to life at Woodland Villa

Residents enjoy a themed day to celebrate the Roaring Twenties

The Roaring Twenties recently had a revival at Woodland Villa, when residents of the Long Sault, Ont. long-term care home were treated to a themed event based on one of the most popular novels of the era, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Spearheaded by life enrichment aides Melissa Cleary and Liana Charbonneau, the event featured residents dressing up in attire from the era, including masquerade masks and pearl necklaces, and the home’s activity room was richly decorated to mimic a speakeasy.

Melissa explains how the idea for the event was born.

“Every summer we brainstorm ideas for the residents, and we wanted to try something new,” she tells The OMNIway.

“We figured, why not do a Great Gatsby day for something new. We wanted to incorporate a little of the 1920s era because we have never included that era in any of our themed programs, and a lot of our residents know about the music and the decorations from that time, so they really appreciated the atmosphere of the day.”

Due to restrictions in place to keep everyone safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing was in place with full safety precautions in effect.

Liana says residents enjoyed the event, adding they “loved” the decorations, food and music. The music brought back memories for residents, even if the 1920s were before their time.

“They all recognized the music and they were dancing to the songs,” she says, adding some residents had seen the 2013 film adaptation of The Great Gatsby, starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

“It was a really fun day for them.”

Liana says this was the first time the Woodland Villa life enrichment team organized an event based on a classic novel, but given the success of the Great Gatsby day, it’s something the team would consider building upon.

“We would do that again in the future, I think, that would be a great addition to our programming,” she says.

Melissa says The Great Gatsby proved to be the perfect classic novel to create a themed event around.

“People did recognize it, and others were interested to know what it was about, and once they learned about the book they came (to the program),” she says.

“We made the book come to life.”

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PHOTO CAPTION: Woodland Villa resident Lucille Lauzon is pictured here enjoying a theme day at the home centred on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby.

How video calls and window visits helped a close family stay close in early part of pandemic

Family member Judy Wood says the Forest Hill team worked hard to make a difficult time easier

Judy Wood remembers the uncertainty she and her five siblings experienced when the COVID-19 pandemic began 17 months ago.

At the time, their mother had been living at Forest Hill for about two years. Judy and her siblings were used to visiting often, but visits to the Kanata, Ont. long-term care home were not possible due to safety restrictions in place.

Judy says Forest Hill staff members understood the concern families had for their loved ones living at the home. Forest Hill life enrichment co-ordinator Craig Forrest and his staff immediately created a system of keeping everyone connected through video conferencing platforms like Zoom and Skype.

This, Judy says, helped her, her siblings and their mother through the first months of the pandemic.

“We are all very close to our mom, (and) Craig and his staff were so accommodating,” Judy tells The OMNIway, adding her mother always had a Forest Hill staff member by her side to help guide her and assist with any questions.

“I would call to ask for a time to connect with my mom and they would make it happen. We all worked together. It was nice to be able to see her and connect with her.”

During the pandemic, Judy’s mother became a great-grandmother twice. Although her mother has a visual impairment, she does have some peripheral vision, and Judy says she was able to see photos of her newborn great-grandchildren on a tablet the Forest Hill team provided.

It’s moments like this that made a difference to Judy’s mother and her family, Judy says.

And it wasn’t just video calls the Forest Hill team organized.

Judy says once residents and their family members were permitted to have window visits, the Forest Hill team arranged for Judy’s mother to be at a large window at the front of the home to see her family.

“When we had those visits, Forest Hill was so accommodating,” Judy says. “The staff would bring her downstairs to the big window so she could spend time just watching us.”

Given that her family is so close, Judy says the effort Forest Hill made to ensure her mother had frequent contact with her family helped carry everyone through a challenging time.

“We were able to see her and feel reassured that she was doing well,” says Judy, who is now an essential caregiver for her mother at Forest Hill.

“For us, it was a reassurance that she was OK.”

– This is Part 1 of a two-part story.

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Chair-dancing helped bring much-needed musical programming to Frost Manor during the pandemic

Aside from meeting musical needs, the program is also a great way to exercise

Exercise and fun – when you can bring these elements together in an activity for long-term-care home residents, you’re sure to have a successful program.

And that’s just what happened when the life enrichment team at Frost Manor created a chair-dancing program for residents of the Lindsay, Ont. long-term care home that was enjoyable for residents and met the standards in place to keep everyone safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program involves life enrichment co-ordinator Amy Whitehead choreographing a routine and residents moving in their chairs to the rhythm of the music.

Before the pandemic began in March 2020, Frost Manor was hosting up to three live performances from musical entertainers per week. With safety restrictions in place, live entertainment has been on hold at Frost Manor and other long-term care homes across Ontario. The life enrichment team designed the chair-dancing program to help meet residents’ musical needs, Amy says.

Residents have been enjoying the chair-dancing program, which led to the creation of a drumming program The OMNIway profiled in a July 19 story.

But more than anything, it’s about having fun, Amy says.

“I always stress to them that it’s not about getting the moves perfectly right, it’s just bopping along to the music and having fun,” Amy tells The OMNIway.

“The biggest thing about all of these programs is just to have fun and get in that free-spirited mode. They are very much feel-good programs. …

“There was so much fun just laughing and moving and getting that music component back.”

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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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The best part of being the Garden Terrace LEC? Seeing residents ‘happy and being engaged’

Rachael King reflects on her first three months on the job at Garden Terrace

Rachael King says there are many things she likes about being the life enrichment co-ordinator (LEC) at Garden Terrace, but one aspect that especially stands out for her is being part of a team that makes a positive difference in residents’ lives.

“I love to see the residents happy and being engaged; I think that’s honestly one of the greatest things,” she tells The OMNIway.

Rachael became the LEC at the Kanata, Ont. long-term care home in early April. While starting a new job at a long-term care home during the COVID-19 pandemic had its challenges, Rachael says it has also been an opportunity to enhance the quality of people’s lives during a difficult time.

Working within safety protocols, Rachael has come up with ideas for new programming for residents since becoming LEC.

For example, she started a popular weekly outdoor environmental education program for residents so they can learn about North American animals and plants.

She also helped organize a recent carnival for residents which was also a big hit.

Rachael says she works with outstanding staff members in the life enrichment department and that has made her transition into the LEC position easier.

“I work with great staff, and the residents make it a lot of fun, too,” she says. “I really think there is a solid team here that makes everything happen; they’ve made it all come together.”

As much as the pandemic has been challenging for everyone, Rachael says it has also made people working in long-term care homes stronger.

She says she and the Garden Terrace life enrichment team have had to think outside the box and be creative to deliver programming that meets safety requirements.

Given that everyone has done so well during the pandemic, Rachael says she’s looking forward to seeing what they can do as a team after the pandemic ends.

“I am really excited about the future prospects of having even more activities and even more opportunities for the residents,” she says.

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Frost Manor turns to frosty treats to keep residents hydrated

Team members are providing milkshakes, slushies and other drinks to keep everyone’s fluid intake high during warm days of summer

Things have become rather “frosty” at Frost Manor after team members at the Lindsay long-term care home came up with an idea that is encouraging everyone to stay well hydrated during the warm days of summer – and residents are loving it.

Every month the life enrichment team creates a theme to engage residents. For July, the team chose “old-fashioned frosty treats” as the theme. The team even adorned a wall of the activity room with a mural of an ice-cream cart with these words to celebrate the theme.

Due to the warm weather, extra attention is always placed on keeping residents hydrated in summer, and adding special beverages to the drink cart is the perfect way to keep residents’ fluid intake high, Amy Whitehead, Frost Manor’s life enrichment co-ordinator, tells The OMNIway.

“With all these really hot days, we started doing a happy hour where we would pick a fun treat – like a slushie or a milkshake or something cold – and we’d go around and offer one to all the residents and staff,” she says.

The aim is to keep hydration levels high amongst residents and it’s working well, Amy says.

Plus, this has been an opportunity for team members to get creative with drinks and treats, and the residents are loving it, she adds.

“It’s always fun to try something different, so the residents will look forward to having something new each time,” Amy says.

“I like to call it ‘happy hour’ because it’s a fun way of saying, ‘let’s get some extra hydration.’ ”

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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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Forest Hill’s patio is getting lots of good use

Residents have been enjoying safe outdoor activities, entertainment and family visits

With restrictions in place on indoor group programming and visitation due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, Forest Hill has been making the most of its patio area to keep safe activities and socialization a part of everyday life at the Kanata, Ont. long-term care home.

When possible, life enrichment team members have been hosting programs, limited to 10 or fewer residents, on the patio (social distancing practices are always in place). Activities like trivia have been especially popular outdoors, says life enrichment co-ordinator Craig Forrest.

“We’re definitely trying to take advantage of (the outdoors) as much as we can,” Craig says. “We will also take residents outside on a one-to-one basis to the patio as well.”

There has also been outdoor entertainment at Forest Hill in recent weeks, with musical acts performing from a safe distance and residents seated apart. Because of the smaller audiences when entertainers perform, residents attend performances on a rotating basis.

In fact, Craig says there has been an added benefit to playing shows outside: better acoustics.

“We have always had lots of entertainment here, but it’s almost a different feeling outdoors – it almost sounds like a concert in a way,” he says.

“The residents have really enjoyed the outdoor entertainment because it almost feels like a festival.”

Because this summer has been warmer and sunnier than most, staff members have been stepping up hydration by ensuring residents always have cold drinks when they need them and, of course, providing sunscreen and hats to protect everyone from the rays.

Patio visits between residents and their loved ones have also spiked in recent weeks, Craig says. Forest Hill is offering these visits from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., seven days a week.

Family members who visit residents at the home’s patio are screened first.

“(Patio) visits have absolutely gone through the roof in popularity,” Craig says.

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Village Green focusing on health and wellness this Nursing Week

Village Green

Village Green

Home hosting a variety of activities that marry health awareness with fun and laughter

Health and wellness is the focus of National Nursing Week at Village Green. Read more