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Province needs to address LTC staffing issues to better face second COVID wave

The need for more staff ‘is a big issue that’s affecting health-care providers across the country, and it’s seriously affecting long-term care homes,’ says OMNI CEO Patrick McCarthy

With health experts predicting a second wave of COVID-19 spread to begin within the coming months, the Ontario government needs to address staffing issues in the long-term care sector to help homes better prevent and manage infection, says OMNI Health Care president and CEO Patrick McCarthy.

Given that long-term-care home residents are among the most vulnerable population groups, it’s crucial that additional funding be earmarked to address staffing levels of front-line workers and provide staff training, both of which will be key to preparing for the second infection wave, he adds.

“(Staffing) is a big issue that’s affecting health-care providers across the country, and it’s seriously affecting long-term care homes,” McCarthy says in an interview with The OMNIway.

While long-term-care home staff members have worked tirelessly to keep residents safe from the highly contagious virus, the first wave of COVID-19 impacted homes across Ontario and Canada.

Long-term care homes having access to more front-line staff members will improve residents’ safety, McCarthy says.

All long-term care homes in Ontario receive funding specifically earmarked to provide nursing, personal care, programs and support services with no element of profit or surplus retained from the provision of those health services. As a result, funding for additional care staff needs to come from the province.

Private long-term care providers across Ontario have asked the Ford government to increase the supply of personal support workers (PSWs) by supporting innovative training programs, including on-the-job training and remote training.

McCarthy adds that the COVID-19 pandemic affects long-term-care home staff members beyond their work inside the homes.

For example, there may be instances where people cannot come to work due to outbreaks in the community or in schools, and there needs to be staffing levels to in place to ensure there’s always a ready supply of front-line care workers.

“It’s all a package that affects the availability of staff and the homes’ ability to staff during the pandemic,” he says.

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Flowers blooming in September at Pleasant Meadow Manor

The home’s 61 residents receive potted azaleas courtesy of Jim Barry Breakfast Club

Even in autumn, the flowers are blooming at Pleasant Meadow Manor.

The Norwood, Ont. long-term care home was recently on the receiving end of an act of kindness when Dawn Barry, the daughter of Pleasant Meadow Manor resident Mary Barry, delivered 61 potted azaleas, one for each resident.

The flowers were donated by the Children’s Breakfast Club of Canada through the Jim Barry Breakfast Club at Roger Neilson Public School in Peterborough, which Dawn is involved with.

This isn’t the first time Pleasant Meadow Manor residents have received flowers from the organization.

In early March, Dawn delivered spring flowers for each resident. The flowers were planted in the home’s perennial garden so residents can enjoy them every year in spring. 

Kim Williams, the life enrichment co-ordinator at Pleasant Meadow Manor, says kind acts like this have a positive impact on residents.

“The residents really enjoy them, and they add a splash of colour to their rooms,” she says.

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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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Frost Manor keeping family council, volunteers up to date on the latest news

Given the changes happening in the long-term care sector due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the fact that family councils have not been able to meet inside long-term care homes since March, Frost Manor has been keeping its family council members and volunteers up to date on the latest news at the home.

The life enrichment team has been sending the monthly activities and special events calendar to family council members and volunteers “to keep the conversations flowing,” says life enrichment co-ordinator Lyndsay Burton.

Family council and volunteers are particularly interested in activities, events and programs, so the team wanted to keep everyone in the fold, she adds.

Lyndsay says there are a few members of Frost Manor’s family council who have stayed on the council even when they no longer have a loved one living at the home. This, she says, speaks to the value of the connections family members make with the Frost Manor team.

“We talk about the programs and what we are doing in detail,” Lyndsay says. “I will send a copy of our newsletter, especially if they don’t have a resident living here anymore because they’ll be missing those things.”

Additionally, the team will e-mail updates about what is going on in the long-term care sector as well as changes related to the COVID-19 pandemic to keep everyone informed.

Looking ahead, Lyndsay says the Frost Manor team plans to explore new ways to connect with family council and volunteers while safety restrictions remain in place.

“We will be looking into an option of doing video calling meetings with our family council, just to keep connected and keep that camaraderie there,” she says.

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LEC reflects on putting together a strong team amid pandemic

‘It has been an interesting roller coaster, but we seem to make it work’

Taking on a new managerial role in a long-term care home usually means taking on new challenges, and taking on a managerial role during a pandemic can multiply those challenges.

Fortunately, Streamway Villa life enrichment co-ordinator (LEC) Laurie Kracht says she has a dedicated life enrichment team at the Cobourg, Ont. long-term care home and that has helped the process run smoothly.

Laurie started working part-time at Streamway Villa in January and became the home’s LEC in July.

Aside from the usual training for her and her team, there were new rules and protocols in place due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

“Getting everything together was difficult during that time, but we made it work,” Laurie tells The OMNIway.

“When I first started (as LEC), I needed to put together a team, so … having everyone fit together as a team was really amazing.”

Three life enrichment aides – Taylor Stacey, Devyn Sheppard and Kiana Gammage – were recent hires and students. While Kiana gave up her position to dedicate herself to her studies when the school year began, Taylor and Devyn have stayed on to work weekends.

Full-time life enrichment aide Lynette Sandercock has recently returned to Streamway Villa after taking a temporary leave.

What made things work was strong consistency through training, Laurie says. Having that consistency is important for a life enrichment team to thrive, she adds.

“You create consistency through training, you have processes and procedures in place for training and getting people on board – but during COVID-19 it’s all over the board and every day is a new day, but we did it as a team and I’m very pleased that I am keeping (Devyn and Taylor),” Laurie says.

“It has been an interesting roller coaster, but we seem to make it work, and I think we’ve kept the positivity and that was my goal.”

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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Kentwood Park team among essential workers honoured by Shriners

Members of the local temple toured the region with a float to thank health-care workers and others for their efforts during the pandemic

Members of the local Shriners temple showed up at Kentwood Park this summer to show their support for everyone working at the Picton, Ont. long-term care home.

Members of the Belleville and District Shrine Club travelled around some of eastern Ontario’s counties in a motor home and float this summer to pay tribute to essential workers for their efforts during the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic.

“It gives these people a little break from their busy work days and they really seem to appreciate it,” Shriner spokesman Clarence Stevenson told the Belleville Intelligencer in June.

“We’re really lucky to have them taking care of the community and this is our way to show them that we appreciate what they do.”

Long-term care homes, hospitals and OPP detachments were among the stops the Shriners made. When the Shriners pulled up to each stop there was music playing from their float.

Lisa Mills, the life enrichment co-ordinator and environmental services manager at Kentwood Park, says that while the pandemic has presented challenges for all of us, having a group like the Shriners stop by to thank workers and send their best wishes makes a difference.

The Shriners’ visit was well-received by everyone at Kentwood Park, Lisa adds.

“That made everyone feel good; it was really nice of them to do that,” she tells The OMNIway.

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Resident fortune teller gives Frost Manor carnival an added boost of fun and laughter

Heather Marshall was a ‘natural’ at playing the part during the home’s carnival-themed month, say staff

One of the key factors that made Frost Manor’s carnival-themed month in August so successful was the high degree of resident involvement, and resident Heather Marshall filling in as a fortune teller was a memorable part of the event, says Frost Manor life enrichment co-ordinator Lyndsay Burton.

The idea to have a fortune teller during the carnival came from residents’ council president Diane Hickman who was initially going to play the part.

However, Diane couldn’t be the fortune teller on the designated day, so Heather, who serves as the council’s treasurer, filled in and did a stellar job, Lyndsay says.

Working with life enrichment aide Amy Whitehead, Heather read Tarot cards and looked into a crystal ball to tell residents and staff members what the future had in store for them.

“Amy said that Heather was a ‘natural’ in the role and really embraced the spirit of fun and laughter to put on a fun resident-led program for her fellow residents,” Lyndsay tells The OMNIway.

“Amy noted there was lots of laughs and intrigue, as some of the fortunes told were hilariously accurate. We were so happy that Heather took on the role and had so much fun doing it.”

In February, Heather was crowned Miss Frost Manor during a pageant the Lindsay, Ont. long-term care home hosted.

Lyndsay says Heather has done a great job fulfilling her duties as the home’s pageant queen.

“She really truly embraces the spirit of leadership and friendship that embodies the role as Miss Frost Manor,” Lyndsay 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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Recent barbecue brings a welcome change at Kentwood Park

‘It was just a fabulous day all the way around’

Kentwood Park residents were treated to a backyard barbecue at the Picton, Ont. long-term care home in August, their first group event since March, and they couldn’t have been happier with the day, says Lisa Mills.

Lisa, Kentwood Park’s life enrichment co-ordinator and environmental services manager, says the outdoor event, which included entertainment from a husband-and-wife duo who performed outside the gates in the yard, attracted 39 of Kentwood Park’s 45 residents.

This included some residents who normally don’t attend programming, so this large number attests to the value the barbecue delivered, she adds.

“It was ecstatic for them because they hadn’t done anything like that in so long; they really enjoyed it,” Lisa says of the barbecue.

“Just getting outside to see something outside of the home was important for them.”

Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, indoor large-group programming and entertainment have been on hold at Ontario long-term care homes since March, so residents have been missing social gatherings.

While indoor visits with family members with safety protocols in effect have been permitted by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care since June, some residents don’t have families, so for these residents the barbecue was especially meaningful, Lisa says.

“It was an eye-opening for them all,” she says. “It was just a fabulous day all the way around.”

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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Adapting activities, thinking creatively, has helped Forest Hill deliver programming

Life enrichment team has stepped up to the challenge, says LEC

With safety protocols in place to keep residents and staff members safe during the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic, the life enrichment team at Forest Hill has had to adapt activities and think outside the box in order to continue delivering high-quality programming.

The Kanata, Ont. long-term care home has 156 residents, making it one of the largest OMNI Health Care homes. While having a large resident population means there is more work to do, the life enrichment team has successfully stepped up to the challenge, says Forest Hill life enrichment co-ordinator (LEC) Craig Forrest.

After the World Health Organization declared the pandemic in March, Forest Hill, like OMNI’s other 17 long-term care homes, began organizing video chats between residents and their loved ones using Skype and FaceTime, which took a lot of planning and time, Craig says.

Now that some restrictions on visitation have been eased, team members’ days largely focus now on planning and overseeing visits inside and outside the home, he adds.

On top of this, some small-group programs, such as bingo and crafts, are running again with social distancing in effect, so staff members are also having to organize a rotation for residents to ensure that anyone wishing to participate gets a chance.

“Overall, we try to be as fair as we can by rotating the residents for programs, and that’s one way everyone has had to adapt,” Craig tells The OMNIway.

“We also have to adapt what was once a large program into a small program with social distancing.”

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Local performer provides an ‘uplifting day’ for Streamway residents and staff

Don Owen played guitar and sang outside the garden fence on Aug. 5

Streamway Villa residents had their first outdoor musical performance from an outside entertainer in five months when Don Owen set up a wooden stage on the other side of the fence at the Cobourg long-term care home and played guitar and sang for everyone.

Residents sat socially distanced in the garden to watch Don’s Aug. 5 performance.

“It went really well; the sun was shining, the breeze was blowing, and the weather was really nice, and Don is a really good performer,” Streamway Villa life enrichment co-ordinator Laurie Kracht tells The OMNIway.

Laurie says there was an energizing atmosphere among residents, who clapped and cheered with enthusiasm after each song.

Don has performed for Streamway Villa residents in the past so he was playing to an established fan base, Laurie says.

One of the residents even wanted to thank Don personally for his performance, Laurie notes.

“It was really an uplifting day, (and) I even had the staff take a moment to come outside and enjoy what we do here,” she says.

In July, Taylor Stacey, a high school student and temporary worker at Streamway Villa, showed up at the home to play violin and guitar for residents outside the fence in the garden, which was a big hit with everyone.

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