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NEWS Mar 29, 2020 by Craig Campbell

Dundas Star News

Whether implementing life-saving protocols or keeping families connected, front-line staff at the St. Joseph’s Villa long-term care home are stepping up for at-risk residents during an unprecedented time.

Villa president John Woods said the Villa is an essential service – and the entire team are proud essential service workers.

“In every department, there are small acts of kindness and courage every day,” Woods said.

No personal visits inside or outside the building are allowed, other than limited exceptions for very ill residents or those requiring end-of-life care.

Villa registered practical nurse Elaine Ford said those necessary restrictions mean difficult times for residents and their families.

“At a time of concern, our residents are separated from their families. We’re seeing a lot of tears. We’re all doing our best to comfort them,” Ford said.

Ten therapeutic recreationists (TR) working in the Villa’s various residential areas keep elderly residents in contact with family and friends through phone and Skype video calls.

Staff arranged for a resident’s family members to wave to her, holding signs with personal messages, from the parking lot below.

“We had them call my work cell and they talked through the window,” said TR Pamela Tasane. “Everyone was crying – in a good way.”

On Friday, March 27 at 11 a.m., Villa staff held the first of what is planned to be a regular Let’s Make Noise event, where family members pull into the parking lot and honk their horns and make noise, letting residents know they’re there.

“The Villa team is getting creative in keeping connections strong while visiting is restricted,” said St. Joseph’s Villa Foundation chief development officer Sarena Paton. “This will be a weekly event, while the community and the country work together to keep people safe and healthy.”

Amanda Rip, a therapeutic recreationist, said her goal is to connect residents with their loved ones, and she feels fortunate to have that role.

In the past week, she has facilitated Skype and phone calls and birthday celebrations from the parking lot. She described it as social distancing at its finest.

“Seeing the happiness on a resident’s face when they see their loved ones, whether on the computer screen or across the parking lot singing ‘Happy Birthday,’ is truly a special moment,” Rip said.

The community, in return, is stepping up to show support for Villa front-line workers.

Paton said Dave Weber, senior partner of Sims Advertising and a Villa volunteer, ordered 300 slices of pizza for the Villa’s night shift and issued a challenge on social media.

“Frontline staff is demonstrating real care and compassion … it would be a good idea to send them some comfort food to say thanks,” Weber said.

Schuurman Greenhouse and Holland Park Garden Gallery dropped off hundreds of plants and flowers to thank staff and brighten residents’ spirits.

Villa administrator Mieke Ewen said it’s touching to see the community rally behind long-term care staff and residents.

“We feel it and we’re so grateful,” Ewen said. “This kindness gives us comfort and helps us get through all the changes and challenges.”

St. Joseph’s Villa Foundation president and CEO Don Davidson thanked the community for standing with the long-term care home.

“We’re so proud of the Villa’s front-line workers as they continue to care for, and protect, Villa residents,” he said. “Our sole focus right now is supporting the Villa through this crisis and emerging from this moment stronger and more united.”

Davidson said Margaret’s Place Hospice construction continues uninterrupted.

“We live in an incredible community that supports community,” he said. “Now more than ever, your support matters.”

Davidson and St. Joseph’s Villa Foundation board chair David Curto noted the significant role the institution’s front-line staff are playing in a letter to the community, that could not be published in the Dundas Star News due to COVID-19-related space reductions.

“As our country is grappling with protecting and maintaining the health and well-being of Canadians and lessening the impact on our health-care system, the Villa team continues to go above and beyond, without hesitation – just as they always do,” Davidson and Curto said.

The Brantford Expositor

By: Susan Gamble
News: March 20, 2020


Bill Johnston reaches out to connect to his wife Betty through the window at St. Joseph’s Lifecare Centre where recreational therapists have made an area available for seniors to see and chat by phone with their families. Johnston owned and operated the Burford Times for 30 years. 

While COVID-19 is wreaking havoc on visits and work schedules at area nursing homes, St. Joseph’s Lifecare is working to ensure both patients and visitors feel supported.

“There’s been a lot of creativity being used,” said David Wormald, president of the Lifecare Centre which is now restricting visitors in almost all cases.

“It’s heartbreaking to have this lock-down in place but we know it’s in the best interests of our residents, staff and those in the community. So, meanwhile, our staff is working to engage with residents and family to connect them.”

Nancy Billard, who handles communications for the facility, said window visits are just part of ‘Project Feel Good’, implemented to help support staff and residents through the pandemic.

“We can’t give hugs but we’re saying however you can make someone feel good in lieu of that – a smile, thumbs up, wave or positive comment – will help.”

Billard said there was some unease among the residents over the first few days of changes but a “feeling of calmness” has settled on the building and is making it’s way from staff to the seniors.

“We’ve maintained 100 percent staffing levels since this started and people have even returned from stay-at-home vacations to help out. It’s been amazing and I have to retreat to my office and get my tissues out two or three times a day.”

Along with scheduling time and providing a phone at the ground-floor window, staff is also working to arrange Skype, Facetime or video-conferencing for the families.

And, all the positive comments that pour in on the St. Joseph’s Facebook page are being printed out as posters and hung around the facility so workers can see how much they are appreciated.

The appreciation flows both ways: Billard said John Ansell from The Keg Steakhouse and Bar donated multiple cases of fresh produce to the Stedman Hospice adjacent to the Lifecare Centre this week as the restaurant closed its doors Tuesday.

“We are incredibly thankful to have received this generous gift,” Billard said, adding that anything the hospice couldn’t use went to the Brantford Food Bank which is experiencing a higher demand for help.

“Our staff is certainly finding it difficult but people are really coming together,” said Wormald.

“I am immensely proud of and applaud the compassionate care and courage of our staff and physicians. They mobilized to support each other and keep our residents and community safe.”