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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Forest Hill applauded for keeping residents and families connected throughout the pandemic

Family member Karen Germundson says regular phone calls LEC Craig Forrest organized between her and her father were a ‘lifeline’

If there’s one thing Karen Germundson says she has learned about Forest Hill since the COVID-19 pandemic began 16 months ago, it’s that staff members will do everything they can to support residents and their families during trying times.

Karen, whose father is a resident at the Kanata, Ont. long-term care home, says this was clear from the moment the pandemic was declared by the World Health Organization in March 2020.

Due to safety restrictions that went into effect right away, family members could not enter the home to visit their loved ones. Communication between residents and family members was going to be crucial, and Karen says Forest Hill life enrichment co-ordinator (LEC) Craig Forrest immediately began organizing phone calls for her dad – something that made a major difference.

“Craig was a huge help; he arranged so many phone calls so that I could keep in touch with my dad,” Karen tells The OMNIway.

“My dad can’t use the phone himself. We didn’t have a phone for him, and that was my big concern: how on Earth are we going to keep in touch?”

But Craig continued to organize regular phone calls for Karen and her dad. Craig would call Karen and hand her dad the phone. Karen was able to talk to her dad almost every day, and that made the situation easier for both her and her father to handle, she says.

There was a lot of uncertainty in the early days of the pandemic. No one knew how long it would last or when residents and family members would be able to see each other, so phone calls between residents and their families became a “lifeline,” Karen says.

“Those phone calls were super important to us and to my dad, of course,” she says. “It was hard for him to understand the whole COVID situation. I think it was an anchor for him because he really needed those phone calls every day.”

Karen also says the pandemic taught her how resilient Forest Hill team members are. With restrictions changing throughout the duration of the pandemic, Forest Hill staff members, she says, have always adjusted and put the residents first, no matter what.

“I don’t know how much more work (the pandemic has) created for them, but I know it created a lot more work for them, and they just took it on – they just did it,” she says.

“I think it’s their adaptability. They had to keep changing and changing, every time. They just did it, and it must have been really hard for them, but they did it.”

– This is Part 1 of a two-part story

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West Lake Terrace is commending local community members for continued support during the pandemic

West Lake Terrace is commending local volunteers and church groups for helping keep residents’ morale high and continuing to provide their support during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Janie Denard, the life enrichment co-ordinator at the Prince Edward County long-term care home, says even though they haven’t been able to be inside West Lake Terrace with residents, these individuals and groups have been a “huge support” in helping keep residents happy since the pandemic began in March 2020.

Jane Foster, who ran a Bible study group at West Lake Terrace on Mondays, has also stayed in touch with some of the residents throughout the pandemic, Janie notes. Jane purchased a DVD set of the Bible so residents could facilitate a scripture study group on their own at the home.

Janie also says Rev. Fran Langlois and the parishioners of St. Mary Magdalene Anglican Church in Picton have been supportive throughout the pandemic by keeping in contact with the home and making sure online church services are available for residents who wish to have access.

The Bethany Christian Reformed Church has been another huge supporter during the pandemic, Janie says.

On Canada Day, church members dropped off individual hand creams for residents that were accompanied by cards. At Easter, they delivered care packages for all the residents.

Ruth Dwight, who was hosting a drumming circle program at West Lake Terrace and nearby Kentwood Park before the pandemic began, has also maintained a connection to the home, Janie says.

As part of the program Ruth leads at long-term care homes across Prince Edward County, residents experiment with a variety of percussion instruments, from hand-held drums to bongos.

Since she cannot be inside the home, Ruth has made DVDs of her drum instruction classes for residents to follow.

“We have been really, really fortunate to have those community connections,” Janie tells The OMNIway.

“They have been doing the best that they can to keep us in the loop.”

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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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Adjusting activities to meet safety standards has kept Pleasant Meadow residents engaged

From spiritual programs to bingo, residents have enjoyed many of their favourite activities during the pandemic, with staff working within the protocols to ensure safety

By making small changes to ensure safety and adhering to all ministry protocols, the Pleasant Meadow Manor team has been able to keep many programs the way residents enjoyed them before the COVID-19 pandemic began – even if there are some small differences.

With large-group programming on hold during the pandemic, the life enrichment team has been working hard to deliver the activities residents most enjoy, says Kim Williams, the Norwood, Ont. long-term care home’s life enrichment co-ordinator.

For indoor activities, groups must be kept to five residents or less, with social distancing measures in place.

Walking and exercise programs have remained in place and have been suited for one-to-one programming, Kim says.

Meeting residents’ spiritual needs has also been top of mind for staff, Kim says. Before the pandemic began, there were volunteers from several denominations who would visit Pleasant Meadow Manor.

Since pastoral volunteers cannot be at the home during this time, life enrichment aide Sheila Fleury has stepped into this role.

On Mondays, Sheila will meet with residents for spiritual readings with small groups or individually.

On Sundays, the home sets up the smart TV and streams sermons from YouTube for residents who wish to attend religious services.

There are residents of many faiths at the home and Kim says team members work to meet all of their spiritual needs.

“We are still trying to keep that spiritual connection for them,” she says.

One of the most popular programs, bingo, has also continued with a different approach.

Rather than giving residents poker chips to place on their cards, which was how the game was played before the pandemic, they use bingo dabbers which are sanitized after every use.

Board games are also offered for small groups of socially distanced residents, with one staff member moving the game pieces around the boards to prevent touching.

“We continue with as many of the activities as we can as long as we can wipe items down,” Kim says.

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Frost Manor residents ‘drumming up’ some fun in new program

DROM program combines music, exercise and meditation

Frost Manor residents have been “drumming up” some fun and exercise in recent months.

In March, Amy Whitehead, who was then a life enrichment aide, participated in an online training session with then-life enrichment co-ordinator (LEC) Lyndsay Burton to learn about the DROM program and bring it back to the Lindsay, Ont. long-term care home’s residents.

The name DROM is derived from merging drumming techniques with the meditation chant called the “om”.

Each session starts with a focus on breathing to relax everyone and get participants ready. The second segment is the “energized portion” where multiple songs for the drumming session are performed by residents beating drumsticks on stability balls to the beat of songs Amy, who is now the Frost Manor LEC, plays for them. The final segment, the “calming portion”, focuses on positive affirmation and meditation.

Amy says the program, which is held in small groups to adhere to protocols in place to keep everyone safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, has been a big hit with residents.

“Everyone goes away feeling good and can carry on with their day on a positive note,” she tells The OMNIway.

Amy teaches residents different drumming patterns and techniques, and residents beat their drumsticks on the stability balls to the rhythm of songs.

“For one song, I got them to use their drumsticks (to the rhythm of) a song that had a trumpet session in it,” Amy says. “You can really get creative with all the different ways that you can drum.”

The timing of the program has been important, Amy says.

Before the pandemic was declared in March 2020, Frost Manor was hosting up to three live performances from local entertainers every week. Due to provincial restrictions, the home has not been able to have indoor entertainment since the pandemic began.

However, the music component of the DROM program is helping meet residents’ musical needs, Amy says.

“We really wanted to get something that we could do for them that would incorporate music because they’re really missing that,” she says.

“It was really great to be able to bring back some type of musical program for them, as well as an exercise program to get everyone moving. Everybody can laugh and have fun and, of course, this really amps up the positivity as well.”

The program is being held once every two weeks. Currently, Amy hosts the program, but two life enrichment aides have expressed interest in being trained to lead the activity. Once they are trained, Amy says she hopes to offer the program more often.

Given the DROM program’s success, Amy says she would recommend it to other long-term care homes.

“If you love music and you’re a fun and positive person, I absolutely recommend it to everybody.”

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Pleasant Meadow residents enjoy a virtual trip to Canadian Canoe Museum

Engaging tour taught residents a lot about canoes and they had lots of questions

Pleasant Meadow Manor residents were recently treated to a free, virtual tour of the Canadian Canoe Museum that was educational and piqued a lot of interest.

While the museum is currently closed due to restrictions in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, residents were able to enjoy a thorough tour of the museum via the smart TV at the Norwood, Ont. long-term care home on June 22.

Located in Peterborough, the Canadian Canoe Museum showcases more than 100 canoes and kayaks. The unique museum is dedicated to educating people about the role of the canoe in Canadian history.

During the virtual tour, museum staff explained the different types of canoes on display at the museum. Residents learned about the history of the canoe and how they are made, says Pleasant Meadow Manor life enrichment co-ordinator Kim Williams.

Everyone had lots of questions following the presentation, she adds.

“The residents enjoyed the tour and found it very interesting learning about the different types and ways that canoes were made,” Kim tells The OMNIway.

“They had a lot of pertinent questions that the staff were more than happy to answer, and it showed that they really were engaged during the whole tour.”

Residents enjoyed the free tour, thanks to a grant that has been provided to the museum by the United Way of Peterborough and the Government of Canada’s COVID-19 Emergency Community Support Fund.

The museum is offering free virtual tours to long-term care and retirement homes throughout Peterborough County. Click here for more information.

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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.

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Local church donates 5 iPads to Country Terrace residents

Gateway Church members wanted to do something for residents to keep spirits high during the pandemic

A local church recently donated five iPads to Country Terrace residents through its community outreach program, a kind gesture everyone at the Komoka, Ont. long-term care home is grateful for, says life enrichment co-ordinator Christie Patterson.

Country Terrace and Gateway Church have had a long-standing connection. As part of its Gateway Cares outreach program, the church recently contacted the home to offer support for residents and staff to help lift spirits during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Christie and Jesse MacMillan, one of the pastors at Gateway Church, had several conversations about ideas that would both thank staff members for their hard work during the pandemic and lift residents’ spirits.

In the end, it was decided the Gateway Cares team would donate five iPads to residents. The iPads are helping residents connect with family and friends as well as providing entertainment. Residents are also attending virtual church services by watching them on the iPads.

Each Country Terrace resident also received a personal letter from Gateway Church members and a small bag of treats.

Gateway Church also provided doughnuts, muffins and coffee for Country Terrace staff members on the day church members delivered the iPads.

Each staff member also received a Tim Hortons gift card to thank them for their hard work and service to residents.

With vaccination rates increasing and businesses and services opening up in Ontario, there are signs of light at the end of the tunnel.

However, the greater health-care sector is still working hard to keep people safe, and it needs to be remembered that the pandemic is not over, Christie says.

The timing of Gateway Church’s generosity is meaningful, she notes.

“As Jesse and I talked, we stated that we believe people forget we are still fighting this COVID battle,” Christie says.

“The staff are still making sacrifices to protect the residents, and it has taken a toll. (The church’s kind gesture shows) that people still care. It is truly a blessing.”

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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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