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Unique partnership between Country Haven and CDSBEO is attracting needed PSWs to LTC

Instructor Anita Plunkett commends the ‘win-win’ collaboration

A partnership between Almonte Country Haven and the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario (CDSBEO) is bringing much-needed personal support workers (PSWs) to the long-term care sector.

To date, six Almonte Country Haven PSWs have graduated from a PSW training program offered by CDSBEO and three more people who are doing their training through the partnership are enrolled this semester. That spells good news for long-term care in the local community, says CDSBEO PSW program instructor Anita Plunkett.

Since early 2020, Almonte Country Haven has participated in the PSW training program offered CDSBEO and supported by the Canadian Career Academy (CCA), an employment agency.

The CDSBEO offers the PSW training program at a comparatively low cost. The CCA has partnered with CDSBEO to cover a portion of students’ tuition through the Canada-Ontario Job Grant (COJG). Students are also permitted to earn money while completing their work placement hours.

Students who are doing their placement at Almonte Country Haven, an 82-bed long-term care home in Lanark County, have the remaining portion of their tuition covered through OMNI Health Care’s bursary program.

“When we first started (the partnership) there was a uniqueness in that, at the time, (the CDSBEO) had not really connected with a home where the home was hiring students while they were in training and connecting them with the Canada-Ontario Job Grant,” Plunkett tells The OMNIway.

“We had not developed that type of relationship with (a long-term care home) up until that point.”

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, Plunkett says there has been a “huge focus on long-term care and the work that PSWs do,” and this makes the Country Haven-CDSBEO partnership timely.

Plunkett says the school board has since connected with other long-term care homes and home-care agencies in the region to help them attract and provide people with PSW training.

The seeds of the collaboration were planted when Almonte Country Haven contacted Plunkett to see if any students in the PSW program were interested in doing a placement at the home.

From there, the CCA was contacted to work out a deal where the employment agency would cover a portion of the students’ tuition through the COJG.

“It’s a three-way connection to get people trained and working at Almonte Country Haven,” Plunkett says.

“Almonte Country Haven is looking for employees, and we can provide the training, so it’s a win-win on both sides.”

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Village Green placement steers student towards LTC career

‘I did a two-month placement there and fell in love with it’

Griffin Newton was no stranger to Village Green when he started a two-month co-op placement at the Greater Napanee long-term care home earlier this year.

His mother, Tammy Newton, is Village Green’s clinical care co-ordinator, and Griffin has been familiar with the home from an early age.

So when it came time for Griffin, a Grade 13 student at Napanee District Secondary School, to do his co-op placement, his mother suggested he consider Village Green, where Griffin also works as a front-door screener.

Tammy saw in Griffin a key strength that’s valuable in long-term care work: his ability to connect with people.

“She came up with the idea of my going back and making a connection (at Village Green) because she said I was always good at interacting with other people and helping others, so why not try that out,” Griffin tells The OMNIway.

“I did a two-month placement there and fell in love with it.”

During his placement, Griffin spent much of his time working with the life enrichment department helping out with activities.

He enjoyed the experience so much he plans to make a career out of it.

Griffin, who will complete his high-school studies this year, has applied to the recreation and leisure program at Loyalist College for the September intake.

Graduates of this program often go on to work in life enrichment departments at long-term care and retirement homes.

One idea he came up with during his placement was to draw a cartoon animal on the whiteboard every morning as well as to write a pun.

“He did this every day because the residents liked the first one so much,” says Ulana Orrick, Village Green’s life enrichment co-ordinator, who adds Griffin is well suited for this line of work.

Griffin says doing his placement at Village Green wasn’t so much “work” as it was learning about the home’s residents.

“It wasn’t a job for me, it was getting a chance to hang around with a group of interesting people I had not met before,” he says.

– This is Part 1 of a two-part story

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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.

Almonte PSW grad found training program so rewarding she recommended it to her husband

Rebekah Lafontaine graduated from the CDSBEO’s PSW program in February. Her husband is enrolled for the September intake

Rebekah Lafontaine has found her role as a personal support worker (PSW) at Almonte Country Haven so enriching she has recommended the training program she recently graduated from to her husband, who is now signed up for the September intake.

Rebekah began working as a care aide at the Lanark County long-term care home shortly after a three-month outbreak of the COVID-19 virus ended in late June of last year.

She already had a friend who was working as a care aide at Country Haven who recommended Rebekah apply for the position.

“My heart just broke and I wanted to help,” Rebekah tells The OMNIway.

She found her work as a care aide so rewarding she enrolled in a PSW training program the home is involved with through the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario (CDSBEO).

But inspiration was also coming to Rebekah from another source: her grandmother.

“My grandmother had worked in long-term care for many years, and I had always looked up to her, so I gave it a try and I fell in love with it,” Rebekah says.

Rebekah, who graduated from the program in February, recommended her husband, Shawn, apply for a position as a care aide and consider taking the PSW program as well.

Shawn found he enjoyed working at Almonte Country Haven as much as Rebekah and he will be starting his PSW training in September.

“I told my husband about how happy I was and how happy I think it would make him, and it turns out I was right,” Rebekah says.

The PSW 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.

Students who are doing their placement at Almonte Country Haven have the remainder of their tuition paid for through OMNI Health Care’s bursary fund, and they have a PSW position waiting for them once they complete training.

Rebekah says she has not looked back on her decision, adding she enjoys coming to work every day because of the difference PSWs make in residents’ lives.

“There is so much to learn and grow,” she adds.

Almonte Country Haven administrator Carolyn Della Foresta says Rebekah is “one of the most gentle spirits I have ever met in my life” and is well suited for her work.

“She wants to excel and she takes every opportunity to learn,” Carolyn says. “She is so passionate about her work.”

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OMNI joins CaRES Fund to help families of senior living workers financially impacted by COVID-19

Launched in 2020, the CaRES Fund has provided more than $2.3 million to help support 679 Canadian caregivers and their families

OMNI Health Care announced today it has joined a partnership launched last year by four other long-term care providers to offer one-time financial relief to those working in senior living residences across Canada who require assistance as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Senior Living CaRES Fund was created by long-term care and retirement home providers Chartwell, Revera, Extendicare and Sienna (CaRES) in May 2020 to help people working for any provider of long-term care or retirement homes in Canada whose families have been financially impacted by the pandemic.

Southbridge Care Homes, a Cambridge, Ont.-based provider of long-term care and retirement homes, also joined the partnership today.

Patrick McCarthy, OMNI Health Care’s president and CEO, says OMNI understands the financial impact the pandemic has had on many Canadian families, including the families of people working in the long-term care sector.

OMNI wanted to join the partnership to help support those families and the employees who have dedicated themselves to caring for long-term care and retirement home residents during a challenging and uncertain time, he says.

“The CaRES Fund has supported hundreds of dedicated senior living employees from across the country,” McCarthy says.

“We look forward to joining the founding partners in supporting hundreds more in 2021.”

Applicants are eligible to receive up to $10,000 through the fund. To date, more than $2.3 million has been awarded to 679 people working in Canadian long-term care and retirement homes.

The CaRES Fund offers grants, not loans, so monies awarded do not need to be repaid.

The CaRES Fund will continue offering financial assistance to senior living residence employees facing financial challenges throughout 2021 by reviewing applications every quarter.

Applications for the first-quarter review open today (March 22) and close April 9.

Click here for more information on the CaRES Fund.

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Garden Terrace residents and staff receive first round of COVID-19 vaccinations

‘We are so happy; it’s a relief and excitement’

Garden Terrace residents and staff members received their first round of COVID-19 vaccinations at the Ottawa-area long-term care home on Jan. 13.

More than 20 paramedics from the local public health unit were at Garden Terrace to administer the vaccinations on Thursday.

There were 138 Garden Terrace residents who consented to receive the vaccine. All of the home’s managers and many of the front-line staff members and essential caregivers also received immunizations.

There will be a second round of vaccinations performed at Garden Terrace in three weeks.

“We are so happy; it’s a relief and excitement,” Garden Terrace’s director of infection, prevention and control Ruzica Subotic-Howell tells The OMNIway.

“We have (most) of the residents vaccinated and that’s exciting, and all of the managers have been vaccinated as well.”

The COVID-19 pandemic was declared by the World Health Organization in March 2020. At the time of this writing, the Government of Canada website is reporting there have been 674,473 cases of people in Canada contracting the virus. The website reports that 17,233 Canadians have died as a result of COVID-19 infection.

The Government of Ontario says on its website that vaccinations will be crucial to curbing COVID-19 infection.

“(Vaccines) will be an important tool to help stop the spread of the virus and allow individuals, families and workers to safely resume normal life,” the website states.

“The coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine does not cause a coronavirus infection. It helps to build up your immunity to the virus, so your body will fight it off more easily if it affects you.”

Ruzica commends Garden Terrace team members for planning Thursday’s visit from the paramedics with precision and ensuring the immunizations went smoothly and in a timely manner.

“Every single manager in every department was diligent and organized to make this a success,” she says.

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Country Terrace nutritional care team recognized by CSNM for Mother’s Day lunch

Photos and a description of the meal have been posted on the CSNM website

Country Terrace nutritional care team members have been recognized by the Canadian Society of Nutrition Management (CSNM) for the meal and tray service they provided residents on Mother’s Day.

The CSNM is a national organization aimed at moving nutritional-care management forward. Members, who largely represent the greater health-care sector, are provided with educational and networking opportunities to advance professional development.

The organization launched an initiative this year called Share the Passion to encourage members nationwide to submit something special they have done for residents, patients or customers during the pandemic.

Country Terrace submitted photos and an explanation of the Mother’s Day lunch tray the nutritional care team prepared. The CSNM selected the Country Terrace submission to be featured on a banner on the organization’s website.

The CSNM website states the initiative is aimed at encouraging nutritional care teams to share their work in an effort “to educate, inform and inspire positive change” and “to help increase the professional bond and showcase the outstanding work of our members.”

Knowing how important Mother’s Day is at Country Terrace, the nutritional care team prepared a special lunch that was served to each of the home’s 120 residents on May 10.

In addition to the barbecued pork ribs, parsnips, cornbread muffins, cream of celery soup and dulce de leche cheesecake that was served to all residents, the 55 mothers living at Country Terrace each had a small floral arrangement and Mother’s Day note on their tray.

Country Terrace nutritional care manager Alex Achillini says he and his colleagues are honoured to be recognized by the CSNM for their work.

“It is very nice for the staff to be recognized by such an institution, especially during this time where everyone works hard to keep up with the changes and (to make) the residents’ lives better with small gestures, such as the flowers for Mother’s Day on the food tray,” he says.

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2020 hasn’t been easy, but we’ve learned a lot

There’s no softer way to say it, 2020 has been a challenging year.

For the first time in a century, the world has been dealing with a large-scale pandemic that has changed the way we live, work and spend our free time.

For those working in the greater health-care sector, 2020 has been especially challenging. Front-line workers have had to adapt like no one else in the workforce to keep the coronavirus in check.

Work life and family life have been greatly impacted for health-care workers, who have had to adapt to the changing circumstances the COVID-19 pandemic has brought.

We have seen this first-hand at OMNI Health Care’s 18 long-term care homes, and we are grateful for the sacrifices team members have made – both personal and professional.

But for all the challenges and anxieties this year has brought, there has also been a lot we have learned as a collective team.

When the pandemic was declared in March, we learned how much local communities value our long-term care homes when kind letters, cards and complimentary meals began showing up for our teams.

Being physically distanced from those we care about is never easy, but we learned how supportive and understanding family members were when they could not visit their loved ones due to safety restrictions in place at long-term care homes for the first three months of the pandemic.

Providing residents in our long-term care homes with a high quality of life is the most important part of our work. Throughout 2020, we learned how creative and innovative our team members are – even under the most challenging of circumstances – when it came to providing residents meaningful programs, meals they enjoy and the care they expect.

And despite the staffing shortages affecting the Ontario long-term care sector at large, we learned how well we come together when our residents need us most.

We are still living through the pandemic, and there will be more challenges ahead. The good news is we are on the right path. We have proven that time and time again throughout 2020.

PSW students can receive training and work at Almonte Country Haven through partnership program

There are more than 10 spots available for February intake

Almonte Country Haven PSWs Debbie Burke (left) and Rebecca Smith (right) pose in their caps and gowns at a ceremony their colleagues at the Lanark County long-term care home organized for them.

People interested in a career as a personal support worker (PSW) can have the costs of their studies covered and receive employment at Almonte Country Haven through a partnership the Lanark County long-term care home has entered.

Almonte Country Haven began a workplace partnership this year with the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario (CDSBEO) and the Canadian Career Academy (CCA) to help provide people interested in careers as PSWs with the required training.

CDSBEO offers a PSW training program at a comparatively low cost and has also partnered with CCA to cover a portion of students’ tuition. Students are also permitted to earn money while completing their work placement hours.

Almonte Country Haven was approached by CDSBEO and CCA and asked if the home was interested in becoming a workplace partner.

Carolyn Della Foresta, Almonte Country Haven’s administrator, says the home didn’t hesitate to get involved. OMNI Health Care, which owns Almonte Country Haven, also offered to help.

“We, of course, jumped at this amazing opportunity, and OMNI kindly offered to cover, through the OMNI bursary program, the portion of the program that CCA did not cover,” she tells The OMNIway.

“This meant that any prospective student that was interested in the program would have the cost covered, would complete their placement with us, while earning money, and had guaranteed employment with us here at Almonte Country Haven during and post-graduation.”

The first two Almonte Country Haven PSWs to receive training through this partnership – Debbie Burke and Rebecca Smith – graduated in October.

Currently, there are four Almonte Country Haven team members enrolled in the PSW program who will graduate in January.

There are currently more than 10 spaces available for the PSW training program that will start in February, and Almonte Country Haven is looking for more to join.

Anyone interested in PSW training through this partnership can contact Carolyn at 613-256-3095, ext. 222.

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Administrator Karen Dann designs Christmassy name badges for Country Terrace team

From left to right, Country Terrace team members Debbie Scheerer, Simi Mathew, Chris Crookshank and Lidia Keleta pose with their Christmas-inspired name badges.

Not wanting to back away from a challenge, Country Terrace administrator Karen Dann recently created special Christmas-themed name badges for every team member working at the Komoka, Ont. long-term care home.

Karen tells The OMNIway she was recently “challenged” by Country Terrace personal support worker (PSW) Christine Crookshank to make the badges for every staff member – including team members brought in to help during the pandemic – to bring some seasonal cheer to everyone.

So that’s exactly what Karen did.

She got to work making the decorative badges which feature several different yuletide designs, including snowmen, Santas, red-and-white stockings, reindeer, angels, Christmas trees and jingle bells.

Along with the new name badges, each team member received a personalized Christmas card from Karen.

“That was 175 cards and 175 Christmas name badges,” she says.

Call it a labour of love.

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