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Springdale family member recounts how staff eased uncertainty early in the pandemic

Maureen Whiteside says the Springdale team has also been ‘very receptive’ to her mother’s needs

Maureen Whiteside recalls the swirl of uncertainty she experienced when the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, only a couple of weeks after her mother moved into the Peterborough-area long-term care home.

“The whole world was in pandemonium, and Springdale shut everything done right away,” Maureen remembers.

Maureen’s mother lives in a private room at Springdale, and when window visits began the home’s staff members would assist her mom to ensure she could have visits with her loved ones standing outside. This offered a valuable measure of comfort, Maureen says.

Since residents’ loved ones could not enter long-term care homes at the start of the pandemic, communication was important during the first few months.

Maureen’s mother, who is 98, had recently learned how to use a cellphone she was given. The cellphone became an important communication tool for Maureen and her mother during this time, and Springdale staff members helped ensure the communication between Maureen and her mother stayed constant.

For example, if Maureen didn’t hear from her mother or if her phone calls went unanswered, Maureen would call Springdale and staff members would check to make sure her mother’s cellphone was charged and switched on.

Staff members would regularly charge her mother’s phone to ensure the battery was always full, Maureen says.

Maureen says the phone her mother uses is an older flip-phone which some of the younger staff members were unfamiliar with. Life enrichment co-ordinator Sonia Murney typed instructions for them detailing how to use the phone, Maureen says.

“It has made a huge difference,” Maureen says of staff members’ efforts.

Maureen adds that correspondence between her and the Springdale team has been top-notch and everyone has been “very good at responding, either by telephone or by e-mail.”

Maureen says one of Springdale’s greatest strengths is that staff members are cognizant of her mother’s needs and are always willing to help.

“Doing things as simple as plugging in her cellphone or having her radio tuned to the classical station she likes (are examples of this),” she says. “They are very receptive to small tasks as well as large tasks. I would have to say that my mom is well looked after.”

– This is Part 1 of a two-part story.

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‘When we walked into Maplewood, we could smell dinner cooking’

Family member Patricia Brown discusses why Maplewood has been the right long-term care home for her mother

Patricia Brown recalls visiting Maplewood for the first time with her sister when they were looking for a new long-term care home for their mother.

When they stepped inside Maplewood, Patricia says it instantly felt “like home.”

“When we walked into Maplewood, we could smell dinner cooking,” Patricia tells The OMNIway. “There were people in the hallways – they weren’t in their rooms, they were walking around. … That was why we put Maplewood as No. 1 on our list.”

Located in Brighton, Ont., Maplewood is an older long-term care home. With 49 beds, it’s also a small home. Patricia says she and her family look at Maplewood’s size and age as attributes that give it the homey feel her mother wants.

Patricia’s mother moved into Maplewood eight years ago. Since then, Patricia says Maplewood has continued to feel like home for her mother.

When the COVID-19 pandemic was declared in March 2020, family members could not visit their loved ones living in long-term care homes for safety reasons.

While this sudden change was challenging for residents and their families to adjust to, Patricia says Maplewood administrator Rachel Corkery kept families updated, and staff members continued providing residents with top-notch care.

“I must say, I have absolute respect for Maplewood as a whole,” Patricia says. “Their staff has gone way beyond trying to make things work and understanding the situation. I think a lot of that is because they are a small home.”

Patricia says one thing the pandemic has taught her about Maplewood is the lengths the home will go to for family members.

“They went beyond what I was expecting,” she says. It wouldn’t matter what it would be, we could always approach Rachel.”

Maplewood’s front-line staff members, Patricia adds, have also “been fantastic” – both before and during the pandemic.

“The staff at Maplewood rolls with the punches,” she says. “They have been fantastic.”

– This is Part 1 of a two-part story.

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Texture-modified meals highlight recent Country Terrace Diners Club

Minced and pureed meals were plated and decorated in 5-star restaurant fashion

A recent Diners Club meal at Country Terrace focused on providing residents who are on texture-modified diets with a tasty and visually appealing dinner featuring some of their favourite foods.

The latest Diners Club meal provided a special dinner for residents on puree and mince diets. Since people “eat with their eyes first,” Alex Achillini, the Komoka, Ont. long-term care home’s nutritional care manager, creatively plated and decorated each plate the way a high-end restaurant would serve dinner.

Residents requiring minced meals enjoyed lasagna for their main course. Residents requiring pureed meals were served a pork chop with peas, mashed potatoes and gravy.

The lasagna was created with noodles Alex made from scratch. The minced lasagna noodles were placed in a glass bowl between layers of meat sauce and ricotta cheese. Homemade cheese buns and a caesar salad were served alongside the lasagna.

For the residents requiring pureed diets, the main feature was a pork chop. The meat was pureed and placed in a silicone mould, frozen to form the shape of a pork chop, and then cooked. This was served with peas and mashed potatoes that were piped into decorative shapes.

For dessert, residents enjoyed a mousse that was layers of dark chocolate and white chocolate, topped with chopped strawberries for residents on the minced diet and a caramel sauce for those on the pureed diet.

When creating meals for residents requiring texture-modified food, Alex says presentation is especially important. Something as small as adding a spoonful of sauce to cover meat or a decorative mashed potato or vegetable can go a long way in making a meal more enjoyable, he says.

Alex notes there was an added touch to this Diners Club meal.

“Residents ate outside on the patio, which added to the enjoyment, and the activities and maintenance departments did a great job decorating it,” he says.

The Diners Club is being hosted for small groups of residents in a rotation. Alex creates a menu featuring foods residents enjoy. Residents are served 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.

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Instructor predicts training program’s partnership with Country Haven ‘will only grow’

Anita Plunkett also sees opportunities to strengthen the collaboration

When asked what the future looks like for the partnership the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario’s (CDSBEO’s) personal support worker (PSW) training program has with Almonte Country Haven, Anita Plunkett doesn’t hesitate in her reply.

“I think it will only grow,” Plunkett, an instructor and clinical supervisor with the training program, tells The OMNIway.

In October, Debbie Burke and Rebecca Smith became the first Almonte Country Haven team members to graduate from the partnership program.

In February, four more Almonte Country Haven team members – Tiffany Brydge, Sheila Warren, Rebekah Lafontaine and Tracie Boyd – completed their PSW training.

Three students are enrolled in the program for this semester and people have been signing up for the September intake.

The partnership between the Lanark County long-term care home and the program removes financial barriers for students and secures positions at Country Haven when they graduate – key benefits that make the program attractive for those looking to start a new career, Plunkett says.

The CDSBEO offers a PSW training program at a comparatively low cost. The CDSBEO has partnered with the Canadian Career Academy to cover a portion of students’ tuition through the Canada-Ontario Job Grant.

Students are also permitted to earn money while completing their work placement hours.

As part of the CDSBEO’s partnership with Almonte Country Haven, which began in early 2020, students who are doing their placement at the home also have the remaining portion of their tuition covered through OMNI Health Care’s bursary program and are given a job upon graduation.

Plunkett says she sees possible opportunities to strengthen the collaboration.

With many Ontario long-term care homes receiving redevelopment funding – including Almonte Country Haven, where work is well underway to expand the home from 82 beds to 96 – Plunkett says she hopes there are opportunities ahead to enhance PSW training inside the more spacious homes.

For example, living classrooms, where students engage in interactive learning with their instructors, long-term-care home residents and staff, are becoming popular.

Living classrooms, Plunkett says, would be ideal for everyone involved in the partnership program.

“The home gets to see the students in action, and they can pick who they want as employees, and the students get the advantage of being right in the home to do their training, which is fantastic,” she says.

– This is Part 4 of a four-part story series

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Country Haven-CDSBEO partnership provides incentives to attract and retain PSWs

Students in CDSBEO PSW program have their tuition covered, receive paid training at Almonte Country Haven and are offered jobs at the home after graduating

Given our growing aging population and need for more front-line workers in the long-term care sector, an education/job-placement partnership like the one Almonte Country Haven has with the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario (CDSBEO) is important to helping the long-term care sector attract and retain personal support workers (PSWs), says Anita Plunkett.

Plunkett, an instructor and clinical supervisor with the CDSBEO’s PSW training program, says a major benefit the partnership has is that students are able to earn money when they do their job placement at Almonte Country Haven and are promised a job at the Lanark County long-term care home after completing their training.

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

As part of the CDSBEO’s partnership with the home, students who are doing their placement at Almonte Country Haven also have the remaining portion of their tuition covered through OMNI Health Care’s bursary program and are given a job upon graduation.

“Our program tends to have more mature students (who) have families; they might have aging parents they’re taking care of, and sometimes they’re a single parent,” Plunkett explains.

“Some of those barriers to obtaining PSW certification are removed (for students in the partnership program), and they are earning an income while they are in the program.”

Plunkett adds that the partnership is also beneficial because Almonte Country Haven is in a rural community, and it is often challenging for rural health-care providers to attract workers because they don’t have the population.

“So this partnership, where they have the training fees paid for and where they can work while going to school and earning an income, can be an attractive package for people,” Plunkett says.

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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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