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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.”