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Forest Hill’s resident-centred culture shines through for family member

Judy Wood, who is now an essential caregiver for her mother at the home, says she sees first-hand the lengths staff goes to for residents

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Judy Wood says one thing has been clear for her about the people working at Forest Hill: they are focused on providing the best care possible for residents.

Judy’s mother has been a resident at the Kanata, Ont. long-term care home for about three years. When the pandemic began in March 2020, Judy says staff members immediately made sure residents and their families kept in touch through frequent phone calls and video conferencing sessions.

“We could see that they really cared for the residents and they felt the challenges that exist when loved ones are not able to visit and give (residents) that social connection and how important it is for the residents,” she tells The OMNIway.

As an essential caregiver who is often at Forest Hill with her mother, Judy says she sees the Forest Hill team providing high-level care to residents every time she is at the home.

“The people there care,” Judy says. “The nursing staff will go out of their way to bring things to residents, to talk to residents. They make sure that there is one-on-one time with each resident.”

Once family members of Ontario long-term-care home residents were able to become designated essential caregivers for their loved ones, Judy says she “jumped at the chance.”

Becoming an essential caregiver meant Judy could regularly visit her mother at Forest Hill after meeting all the requirements.

After many months of not being able to see her mother in person at Forest Hill, Judy says being an essential caregiver for her mom has been comforting.

“Just to be able to spend time with my mom, to chat with her, to bring her in her favourite candy, or telling her about what the rest of the family has been doing, has meant a lot,” she says.

Judy says being an essential caregiver for her mother has also provided opportunities to become closer with the Forest Hill staff members.

“We are all experiencing (the pandemic) together – (the staff) also have a home life with families and (the pandemic) has been affecting them too,” she says.

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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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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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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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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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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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Internal promotion shows OMNI’s commitment to team members: administrator

Neil MacDonald is one of four Frost Manor managers to be promoted from within the organization

Neil MacDonald says one of the great things about working for OMNI Health Care is that the organization values its employees and demonstrates commitment to staff members by promoting people from within.

This is something he’s experienced first-hand.

After spending much of his career working at OMNI homes as a dietary aide, cook and nutritional care manager, Neil became the administrator at Frost Manor in Lindsay on April 8.

Promoting employees from within the organization and investing in its people are hallmarks of the commitment OMNI has for the people working in its 18 long-term care homes, Neil says.

“I think it’s critical,” Neil says of internal promotion. “First of all, as employees of the company, it’s something that really helps provide you with a positive outlook in your career; to know that you could go from a dietary aide or a PSW (personal support worker) up to a top position within a home or within the company.”

Neil notes that several members of the Frost Manor management team have been promoted from within.

Brittney Sharpe, before becoming Frost Manor’s director of care, was a volunteer, PSW and a nurse at the home.

Sarah Wokral started at Frost Manor as a registered practical nurse and then became RAI co-ordinator.

Amy Whitehead, who started at Frost Manor as a life enrichment aide, recently became life enrichment co-ordinator.

“Four members of our management team were promotions from within, and that’s great for employees and for retention, but also for the quality of care that we can provide because we are groomed into the OMNIway and the quality of care that we strive to provide,” Neil says.

“We have that extra time spent learning (the OMNI) values and practising those values, and then being put into a position to lead people towards those values, I think is very advantageous for the care that we provide.”

– Part 3 of a three-part story

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