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Easter Bunny visits Kentwood Park

LEA Darlene VanVlack made Easter morning special for residents

Sometimes the smallest gestures have the greatest impact, and that was certainly the case at Kentwood Park on Easter morning when residents of the Picton, Ont. long-term care home had a special visitor.

Life enrichment aide (LEA) Darlene VanVlack put on a rabbit costume and played the part of the Easter Bunny for residents. She went around the home visiting each of the residents to wish them a happy Easter and to spend some one-to-one time with them.

Of course, since it was Easter, there were lots of chocolates for everyone, and the Easter Bunny made sure every resident had their share of sweets, says Kentwood Park life enrichment co-ordinator Lisa Mills.

With restrictions in place to keep residents safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, large-group programming is currently on hold, so one-to-one time between residents and staff has a lot of value.

Getting a visit from the Easter Bunny proved to be a big hit with residents and ensured they had a happy Easter, Lisa says.

“Residents spoke of this for days, and (were talking about) how pleased they were to receive the gifts she handed out,” she tells The OMNIway.

“So to speak, it was a hopping good time had by all.”

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Country Haven PSW says the pandemic cemented her career path

‘I felt that being a PSW was literally my passion,’ says Tiffany Brydge

Tiffany Brydge had been working as a care assistant worker at Almonte Country Haven for two months when a COVID-19 outbreak was declared March 29, 2020, at the Lanark County long-term care home.

When the outbreak began, Tiffany says she knew that becoming a personal support worker (PSW) was her calling.

She had already signed up for the September intake of a PSW training program offered through the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario (CDSBEO) and supported by the Canadian Career Academy (CCA), but seeing the difference front-line workers made to residents during this challenging time cemented her decision.

“I felt that being a PSW was literally my passion, and I felt that I had finally found my passion when I came to work (at Almonte Country Haven) when we were going through the outbreak,” Tiffany tells The OMNIway.

Tiffany was on Facebook 14 months ago when she saw an ad from the Canadian Career Academy (CCA) about an opportunity to enrol in a PSW training program through the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario (CDSBEO).

The training program is offered to students at a comparatively low cost. The CCA covers a portion of the program’s tuition fees and allows students to earn money while doing their work placements.

For prospective students like Tiffany who were already working at Almonte Country Haven or who wanted to do a placement at the home, OMNI Health Care covers the remainder of the tuition costs through its bursary program.

“I haven’t looked back since,” says Tiffany, who worked in the retail sector for 22 years before deciding on a career as a PSW.

Almonte Country Haven administrator Carolyn Della Foresta says Tiffany has “shone” as PSW at the home.

Carolyn remembers the day during the outbreak when Tiffany told her she was convinced she made the right decision to become a PSW.

“She said, ‘I’ve found my purpose in life. I’ve now found my passion and my purpose and it’s to work as a PSW and to help these residents,’ ” Carolyn says.

Carolyn adds that Tiffany is resident-focused, and whenever she has a spare moment, she will find something to do with residents, such as accompanying them outside to fill the bird feeders.

Tiffany, who graduated from the PSW training program in February, commends the course as an excellent resource for people considering a rewarding career as a PSW.

“I absolutely loved it and I’m so happy that I came across this opportunity,” she says.

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Photo caption: Four Almonte Country Haven team members recently graduated from a PSW training program the home is involved with through a partnership with the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario. Pictured left to right, Tiffany Brydge, Sheila Warren, Rebekah Lafontaine and Tracie Boyd.

Country Terrace residents enjoying high-end meals through Diners Club program

Residents are still talking about the latest meal

Country Terrace residents have been enjoying an array of high-end meals the Komoka, Ont. long-term care home’s nutritional care team has been preparing as part of the Diners Club program.

The Diners Club is being hosted every two weeks for small groups of residents in a rotation. Country Terrace nutritional care manager Alex Achillini creates a menu of foods residents love and team members serve the meals in a way one would expect from a top-notch restaurant.

Due to restrictions in place to keep everyone safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is currently no large-group programming. To ensure all residents can enjoy a Diners Club meal, the program is offered in one area of the home every two weeks, with no more than six residents participating at a time.

Recent Diners Club meals residents have enjoyed include beef tenderloin and chicken wings with ribs, and everything is prepared from scratch.

“The residents are still talking about it,” Alex says. “They enjoyed it very much.”

Anyone working in a long-term care home will tell you that high-quality meal service is a top priority for residents. Meals not only provide nourishment, there are also social and cultural elements tied to food that make mealtimes so valued.

“And when you do something special for meals and it is for a small group, the people also feel special,” Alex says. “Everybody else will also be served a special meal, but that feeling of being special is something the residents enjoy.”

During Diners Club meals, residents are offered beer and wine in addition to the usual beverage choices of juice, tea and coffee, Alex notes.

Diners Club meals are also served with Country Terrace’s best silverware and plates.

There will be a rotation of the Diners Club this week, and the nutritional care team will be preparing a seafood night. Alex gave a sneak peek of his plans.

“I’m going to make homemade pasta with lobster, shrimp and salmon,” he says.

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With safety top of mind, Forest Hill residents celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

Life enrichment team’s ingenuity helped make the event a big hit with residents

Instead of having a big St. Patrick’s Day party at Forest Hill this year, there were five smaller events to celebrate all things Irish – with social distancing and other safety precautions in full effect, of course.

Like with many long-term care homes, St. Patrick’s Day is a big affair at Forest Hill. Before the COVID-19 pandemic began, a typical Forest Hill St. Patrick’s Day party included entertainers performing Celtic music and large-group pub events.

However, due to restrictions in place to keep everyone safe during the ongoing pandemic, this year’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration could not include large-group gatherings or live entertainment.

But by using their ingenuity, life enrichment team members were able to organize simultaneous St. Patrick’s Day celebrations that met safety protocols on each of the Ottawa-area long-term care home’s five floors.

“Unfortunately, we couldn’t have live music, but we did have Irish and Celtic music CDs here, so we put on lots of music for residents,” explains Craig Forrest, Forest Hill’s life enrichment co-ordinator.

“Gatherings (on each floor) had to be smaller, but we still had the music, the non-alcoholic green beer and other drinks, and lots of food.”

Residents were also provided with St. Patrick’s Day outfits, such as green hats, to wear in the spirit of the day, Craig notes.

Even with social distancing in place and no large-group activities, residents still had a lot of fun on March 17, thanks to the work life enrichment aides put into the day, Craig says.

“The life enrichment aides here are really good, and the residents on each floor really enjoyed (the celebration) – it was a lot of fun for them,” he says.

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Bingo, a prize draw and green beer mark St. Patrick’s Day at Frost Manor

Safety restrictions meant activities were low-key, but there was still lots of fun and laughter for residents

St. Patrick’s Day was low-key this year at Frost Manor, but the Lindsay, Ont. long-term care home’s residents and team members still celebrated all things Irish on March 17.

In the morning, residents and staff dressed up in green St. Patrick’s Day attire and shared a laugh at what everyone was wearing, says Frost Manor life enrichment co-ordinator Lyndsay Burton.

Later in the day, residents and staff played “lucky bingo” in the different areas of the home. There was also a prize draw from a “pot of gold,” and those selecting a winning token received a cash prize.

Since there is currently no large-group programming at Frost Manor due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, team members organized St. Patrick’s Day activities for small groups of residents, with social distancing and other safety measures in effect.

And, of course, no St. Patrick’s Day would be complete without refreshments, so team members served pints of green beer to residents who wished to have a drink as well as other festive treats.

Because of restrictions in place to keep everyone safe during the pandemic, St. Patrick’s Day had to be toned down compared to previous years, but residents still enjoyed the fun and laughter that comes with the occasion, Lyndsay says.

“The residents enjoyed the special programming, and we said, ‘everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s day,’ ” she says.

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How COVID-19 prompted a dietary staff member to become a PSW

Sheila Warren had worked in the kitchen at Almonte Country Haven for 29 years, but when an outbreak began in March 2020, she decided to make a career change

Sheila Warren had worked in the nutritional care department at Almonte Country Haven for 29 years when a COVID-19 outbreak was declared at the Lanark County long-term care home on March 29, 2020.

Knowing front-line team members would need additional help caring for residents, and having previous health-care aide training, Sheila approached administrator Carolyn Della Foresta and asked to switch duties so she could work on the floor to help the personal support workers (PSWs).

Carolyn accommodated Sheila’s request and immediately noticed Sheila had a natural gift for PSW work. In fact, Carolyn, along with other Country Haven team members, thought caregiving may truly be Sheila’s calling.

Managers, PSWs and nurses suggested Sheila take PSW training and change job roles at Almonte Country Haven.

“As a management group, we saw that Sheila was amazing (working on the floor), she was meant to work hands-on,” Carolyn tells The OMNIway.

“We saw that Sheila shone outside of the dietary department working hands-on for her entire shift with the residents.”

There was also a perfect opportunity waiting for Sheila: Almonte Country Haven had recently entered a partnership with the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario (CDSBEO) through a PSW training program the school board offers.

The training program, which is supported by the Canadian Career Academy (CCA), is offered to students at a comparatively low cost. The CCA covers a portion of the program’s tuition fees and allows students to earn money while doing their work placements.

For people like Sheila doing their placement at Country Haven, OMNI Health Care covers the remainder of the tuition costs through its bursary program.

Sheila decided to consider the offer, but before making a final decision, she wanted to consult with one more person: her mother who, coincidentally, had been a caregiver at Almonte Country Haven.

“I thought long and hard about it and talked to my mum, and my mum was the icing on the cake for my decision to take the PSW course,” Sheila says.

“She basically said you are your mother’s daughter and you will be fantastic at it.”

Sheila completed the training program and is now a full-time PSW at Almonte Country Haven. Sheila says she has not looked back on her decision.

“I love it immensely,” she says of her new position.

Sheila also has words of praise for the PSW program offered by CDSBEO.

“It was very informative,” she says of the program, adding her neighbour recently expressed interest in signing up for the training. “Between doing the course, working and taking care of everything at home, my schedule was full, but it was a very informative program.”

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Photo caption: Four Almonte Country Haven team members recently graduated from a PSW training program the home is involved with through a partnership with the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario. Pictured left to right, Tiffany Brydge, Sheila Warren, Rebekah Lafontaine and Tracie Boyd.

Pandemic prompts Burnbrae life enrichment team to invent new programming

A Mardi Gras activity and a music program are among the life enrichment team’s creations since safety restrictions have been in place

Necessity, as the old saying goes, is the mother of invention, and since the global COVID-19 pandemic began a year ago, Burnbrae Gardens life enrichment team members have had to tap into their creativity to develop meaningful programs for residents to enjoy.

And April Faux, the Campbellford, Ont. long-term care home’s administrator and life enrichment co-ordinator, says the life enrichment staff has answered the challenge by coming up with fun programs for residents that enhance their quality of life while adhering to protocols to keep everyone safe during the pandemic.

In February, life enrichment aide (LEA) and physiotherapy assistant Lauren Farnham organized a Mardi Gras party – something the home had never done before – complete with music and props such as Mardi Gras beads and refreshments.

The event sparked a lot of interest from residents, April says, adding Lauren was able to run the program for all residents who wanted to join the fun by having small groups take turns participating at different intervals.

For residents who stayed in their rooms, the LEAs would bring them a treat, such as a non-alcoholic margarita, to ensure they were still included in the activity.

“Residents loved the Mardi Gras program,” April says.

Another LEA, Shawna Booth, started a music program in September called Music Appreciation.

As part of this program, Shawna plays different types of music and encourages residents to dance and exercise. Each time the program runs there will be a different theme of music for residents to enjoy. The music is based on residents’ musical interests.

Like the Mardi Gras program, the music program is only done with small groups of residents.

“We have had to reach outside the box because we used to have so much live entertainment, but we can’t have that right now, so we’re having to be a bit more creative, which is good for everyone and it’s (providing) new programs for the residents,” April says.

– More to come

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Willows outbreak ends, team members recognized with staff appreciation day

Staff was honoured for their hard work and support for residents and each other

After a two-month COVID-19 outbreak ended at Willows Estate in late February, team members at the Aurora, Ont. long-term care home were recognized for their hard work and commitment to residents and each other with a staff appreciation day on Feb. 25.

During the outbreak, Aimee Merkley, OMNI Health Care’s director of western operations, was the acting administrator at the Willows. From the day York Region Public Health declared the outbreak on Dec. 23, Aimee says Willows Estate team members worked hard to care for residents, ramp up infection, prevention and control measures, and support each other.

During the outbreak, Aimee worked closely with Doneath Stewart, who is acting director of care at the Willows, and Neil MacDonald, formally the nutritional care manager at Riverview Manor who was called in for assistance.

The efforts put forth by Doneath and Neil, as well as support from OMNI Health Care home office team members, helped residents and staff during this challenging time, Aimee says.

“There were many tough and emotional days during the outbreak, (but) staff pulled together and committed to the hard work required to ensure infection, prevention and control practices were observed and residents received the care and support they needed,” Aimee says.

Every time a resident case of COVID-19 was resolved, team members rang a bell on the unit, and “staff looked so forward to ringing the bell,” Aimee says.

When the outbreak officially ended Feb. 23, Silver Fox Pharmacy, an OMNI provider, supplied the Willows team with 100 cowbells to ensure everyone at the home had a bell to ring to signify the outbreak’s end.

Two days later, Aimee organized the staff appreciation day for team members working on all three shifts.

Staff members were treated to coffee and doughnuts from Tim Hortons as well as pizza and cupcakes. Everyone received T-shirts displaying the OMNI logo on the front and the words “tough times don’t last – tough teams do” on the back.

Community donations of Tim Hortons gift cards and gift bags were awarded for prizes during trivia games, and OMNI logo wear was also provided to draw winners.

Aimee says the appreciation day was well received by the Willows Estate team.

“They loved the day and were so appreciative of the recognition, which they truly deserved,” she says.

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Riverview Manor residents celebrate Mardi Gras

With safety protocols in place, residents enjoyed a piece of New Orleans in the home

A little bit of New Orleans came to Riverview Manor in mid-February.

The Peterborough long-term care home hosted its own version of Mardi Gras, the famed carnival held every year in the Big Easy on Shrove Tuesday.

Residents living on the north side of Riverview Manor celebrated Mardi Gras with a pub night organized by the life enrichment team on Feb. 15 and those living on the south side celebrated on Feb. 16, which was Shrove Tuesday.

Mardi Gras, which translates to “Fat Tuesday,” gets its name from the tradition of Catholics eating rich, high-calorie foods the day before the start of Lent the next day, Ash Wednesday.

So, of course, there were plenty of snacks available for residents to enjoy, including mozzarella sticks, pigs in a blanket, sour cream ring chips and a special gelatin dessert life enrichment aide Adam Wicklum made with Jell-O featuring the three colours representing Mardi Gras, green, gold and purple.

For drinks, residents had a choice of Mardi Gras purple punch with cherry and pineapple ice cubes or beer and pop.

Each of the Mardi Gras colours carries significance. Green represents faith, gold stands for power and purple signifies justice. Adam also made a Mardi Gras backdrop using these three main colours.

Masks and beads are also part of Mardi Gras celebrations, and Adam attached Mardi Gras masks and beads to the colourful backdrop for added effect.

Mardi Gras beads are said to be protective and ward off evil spirits or spells, and they can also be good-luck charms, Adam explains.

Music is another important feature of any Mardi Gras celebration, and residents listened to Louisiana-flavoured music through Spotify during the events.

Due to the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing was in effect and there were transparent barriers between people to ensure everyone kept safe.

“(During) other years, residents got Mardi Gras masks and beads (to wear), but because of COVID-19 they did not this year for their safety, but they had this year’s backdrop for decoration and (there were) photo sessions with some residents,” Adam says.

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1950s diner and a visit from the Fonz highlight West Lake Terrace activity week

The home’s Beat the Winter Blahs Week succeeded in its mission, says LEC

The West Lake Terrace dining room recently looked like Arnold’s Drive-In, the famed diner where characters from the 1950s-themed sitcom Happy Days would hang out.

Residents and staff could tuck into burgers, hot dogs, fries and onion rings served in baskets lined with checkered paper. There were ice-cream sundaes for dessert and cherry cola to wash everything down.

People were dancing to the 1950s rock ’n’ roll that was playing, and there was even a visit from Arthur Fonzarelli – AKA, Fonzie – himself.

Resident Elwood Lewis donned a black leather jacket and sunglasses to play the part of Fonzie perfectly, right down to giving the thumbs-up, and his “aaayyy!” was spot-on, says West Lake Terrace life enrichment co-ordinator (LEC), Janie Denard.

For Janie, the 1950s theme day, which was held at the Prince Edward County long-term care home on Feb. 18, was the pinnacle of a week of fun events that aimed to blow away the winter blues.

“We really wanted to be creative this year to come up with activities that would help both the residents and the staff beat the blahs this year,” she tells The OMNIway.

Every February, West Lake Terrace hosts a Beat the Winter Blahs Week, seven days dedicated to themed activities to help residents and staff members through the often cold and dreary winter month.

The ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic made year’s activity week even more important for everyone, given the restrictions that have been in place since the pandemic was declared by the World Health Organization 11 months ago, Janie says.

Other events held the week of Feb. 12 to Feb. 19 included:

– Chinese food for lunch on Feb. 12

– On Feb. 14 there were Valentine’s Day photos taken, and a steak dinner served in the evening

– Feb. 15 was Pyjama Day, so residents and team members stayed in their PJs for the day

– On Shrove Tuesday, pancakes were on the menu and there was a special Mardi Gras event for everyone that included games

– A sports day for staff members and the West Lake Terrace Winter Games for residents on Feb. 17

– A special breakfast capped off the week on Feb. 19

Janie says residents and staff members had a lot of fun during this year’s Beat the Winter Blahs Week

“They had a blast, they’re already asking when we can do it again.”

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