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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On Fridays, West Lake Terrace turns into a cinema

Friday afternoon matinees have become a favourite program for residents during the pandemic

On Friday afternoons, West Lake Terrace takes on the atmosphere of a cinema, complete with a movie playing for residents and the aroma of freshly popped popcorn wafting through the halls.

The idea for the Prince Edward County long-term care home to start offering Friday movie matinees came from the residents, who were yearning to watch more of their favourite films.

The home bought an authentic movie theatre popcorn machine, which makes the experience even better for residents, says Janie Denard, West Lake Terrace’s life enrichment co-ordinator.

When Fridays come around, life enrichment staff members ask a resident to choose a movie from the home’s collection of videos. A different resident is asked to select a film each week to ensure variety.

“It’s always a different movie and the residents get to decide what they watch,” Janie tells The OMNIway.

With safety protocols in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, large-group programming has been on hold at West Lake Terrace and other long-term care homes, so activities like the Friday movie matinees have helped meet residents’ programming needs, Janie says.

As well as offering different movies on Fridays, staff members provide different refreshments to go with residents’ popcorn, such as milkshakes or Shirley Temples.

This program has made Fridays a favourite day at the home, Janie says.

“They absolutely love it; they look forward to watching their movies,” she says.

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LTC redevelopment support needs to stay on track to ensure resident safety and comfort

When the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 pandemic 17 months ago, those of us in the long-term care sector knew we had to brace ourselves.

It was evident early on that the sector would be put to the test. As with any serious virus, we knew COVID-19 had the potential to be especially devastating to the elder population and to those with complex health conditions.

While we had pandemic plans in place, there were many unknown factors surrounding COVID-19 we had to grapple with: How contagious was this virus? How can we protect residents without compromising their quality of life? How long would this last?

If there’s one thing the pandemic has taught us as a sector, it’s that as prepared as long-term care homes may be, as expertly trained and knowledgeable as home staff and managers are, the homes themselves must be spacious and equipped with modern features and amenities in order to offer maximum protection to residents.

The good news is the Ontario government has, since 2018, been investing in a capital redevelopment plan to upgrade the province’s older Class B and C long-term care communities to meet new home standards.

OMNI Health Care is grateful for the commitment the province has made to provide funding to support redevelopments that are underway at three of our long-term care homes – Almonte Country Haven, Pleasant Meadow Manor and Woodland Villa – as well as Country Terrace which is expected to be underway imminently.

The province has also committed redevelopment support for Riverview Manor, Streamway Villa and Village Green, which are currently in the design and planning process.

Amongst the many features that will come with these upgrades, perhaps the most important will be the improvement of personal space for residents through the elimination of three- and four-bed wards and the creation of home areas housing no more than 32 residents.

Not only will providing more space enhance residents’ quality of life, it will also improve infection control by reducing the number of residents living in close proximity to one another.

While progress has been made and shovels are in the ground for many of these projects, the momentum of the capital redevelopment plan needs to continue at full throttle.

Investing in long-term care now not only improves the quality of life for the residents of today, it will offer an added layer of safety for future residents.

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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The Great Gatsby comes to life at Woodland Villa

Residents enjoy a themed day to celebrate the Roaring Twenties

The Roaring Twenties recently had a revival at Woodland Villa, when residents of the Long Sault, Ont. long-term care home were treated to a themed event based on one of the most popular novels of the era, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Spearheaded by life enrichment aides Melissa Cleary and Liana Charbonneau, the event featured residents dressing up in attire from the era, including masquerade masks and pearl necklaces, and the home’s activity room was richly decorated to mimic a speakeasy.

Melissa explains how the idea for the event was born.

“Every summer we brainstorm ideas for the residents, and we wanted to try something new,” she tells The OMNIway.

“We figured, why not do a Great Gatsby day for something new. We wanted to incorporate a little of the 1920s era because we have never included that era in any of our themed programs, and a lot of our residents know about the music and the decorations from that time, so they really appreciated the atmosphere of the day.”

Due to restrictions in place to keep everyone safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing was in place with full safety precautions in effect.

Liana says residents enjoyed the event, adding they “loved” the decorations, food and music. The music brought back memories for residents, even if the 1920s were before their time.

“They all recognized the music and they were dancing to the songs,” she says, adding some residents had seen the 2013 film adaptation of The Great Gatsby, starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

“It was a really fun day for them.”

Liana says this was the first time the Woodland Villa life enrichment team organized an event based on a classic novel, but given the success of the Great Gatsby day, it’s something the team would consider building upon.

“We would do that again in the future, I think, that would be a great addition to our programming,” she says.

Melissa says The Great Gatsby proved to be the perfect classic novel to create a themed event around.

“People did recognize it, and others were interested to know what it was about, and once they learned about the book they came (to the program),” she says.

“We made the book come to life.”

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PHOTO CAPTION: Woodland Villa resident Lucille Lauzon is pictured here enjoying a theme day at the home centred on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby.

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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Chair-dancing helped bring much-needed musical programming to Frost Manor during the pandemic

Aside from meeting musical needs, the program is also a great way to exercise

Exercise and fun – when you can bring these elements together in an activity for long-term-care home residents, you’re sure to have a successful program.

And that’s just what happened when the life enrichment team at Frost Manor created a chair-dancing program for residents of the Lindsay, Ont. long-term care home that was enjoyable for residents and met the standards in place to keep everyone safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program involves life enrichment co-ordinator Amy Whitehead choreographing a routine and residents moving in their chairs to the rhythm of the music.

Before the pandemic began in March 2020, Frost Manor was hosting up to three live performances from musical entertainers per week. With safety restrictions in place, live entertainment has been on hold at Frost Manor and other long-term care homes across Ontario. The life enrichment team designed the chair-dancing program to help meet residents’ musical needs, Amy says.

Residents have been enjoying the chair-dancing program, which led to the creation of a drumming program The OMNIway profiled in a July 19 story.

But more than anything, it’s about having fun, Amy says.

“I always stress to them that it’s not about getting the moves perfectly right, it’s just bopping along to the music and having fun,” Amy tells The OMNIway.

“The biggest thing about all of these programs is just to have fun and get in that free-spirited mode. They are very much feel-good programs. …

“There was so much fun just laughing and moving and getting that music component back.”

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Spirit of Summer Olympics comes to Streamway Villa

Residents participated in a week-long series of events and activities focused on the Tokyo games

The 2020 Summer Olympics is in full swing in Tokyo, and the residents of Streamway Villa have also been in the spirit of the Games of the 32nd Olympiad.

Throughout the week of July 26-30, the Cobourg, Ont. long-term care home celebrated the Summer Games with a myriad of Olympic-themed events that engaged residents.

With many residents interested in the Summer Olympics, Streamway Villa team members have posted the schedule of events each day on the home’s activity board.

The activity board also features a new photo and information to spotlight individual members of the Canadian Olympic team. There is also a space for the medal table to keep track of how many gold, silver and bronze medals Canadian athletes win.

The life enrichment team has led residents in programs about the history of the Olympics and they have been showing replays of all the medal wins for Canadian athletes, notes life enrichment co-ordinator Laurie Kracht.

An Olympic quiz game has been played as well as “Olympic bingo,” Laurie adds. For a crafts activity, residents made Olympic crowns.

On July 30, the events came to an end, with residents and team members playing more Olympic-themed games, including an egg-and-spoon relay, and there was a parade for residents who had their walkers and wheelchairs decorated by team members.

Staff members were treated to a pizza party to thank them for their work decorating.

“We’re calling it our very own Olympic closing ceremony,” Laurie says.

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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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The best part of being the Garden Terrace LEC? Seeing residents ‘happy and being engaged’

Rachael King reflects on her first three months on the job at Garden Terrace

Rachael King says there are many things she likes about being the life enrichment co-ordinator (LEC) at Garden Terrace, but one aspect that especially stands out for her is being part of a team that makes a positive difference in residents’ lives.

“I love to see the residents happy and being engaged; I think that’s honestly one of the greatest things,” she tells The OMNIway.

Rachael became the LEC at the Kanata, Ont. long-term care home in early April. While starting a new job at a long-term care home during the COVID-19 pandemic had its challenges, Rachael says it has also been an opportunity to enhance the quality of people’s lives during a difficult time.

Working within safety protocols, Rachael has come up with ideas for new programming for residents since becoming LEC.

For example, she started a popular weekly outdoor environmental education program for residents so they can learn about North American animals and plants.

She also helped organize a recent carnival for residents which was also a big hit.

Rachael says she works with outstanding staff members in the life enrichment department and that has made her transition into the LEC position easier.

“I work with great staff, and the residents make it a lot of fun, too,” she says. “I really think there is a solid team here that makes everything happen; they’ve made it all come together.”

As much as the pandemic has been challenging for everyone, Rachael says it has also made people working in long-term care homes stronger.

She says she and the Garden Terrace life enrichment team have had to think outside the box and be creative to deliver programming that meets safety requirements.

Given that everyone has done so well during the pandemic, Rachael says she’s looking forward to seeing what they can do as a team after the pandemic ends.

“I am really excited about the future prospects of having even more activities and even more opportunities for the residents,” she says.

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