A man walks away from the Linhaven long-term care facility in St. Catharines on Wednesday. Niagara Region is considering using early childhood education staff to supplement regular staff in these facilities which are closed to the public during the COVID-19 outbreak. – Bob Tymczyszyn , Torstar

Niagara Region redeploys workers to assist long-term care residents

by Allan Benner, The St. Catharines Standard

Niagara Region long-term care home staff are working to make the best of a bad situation.

As regional programs and facilities have been shut down to contain the spread of COVID-19, dozens of workers are being redeployed to assist seniors in Niagara’s long-term care homes who are isolated due to visitor restrictions.

Niagara seniors community program administrator Carol Rudel said about 50 staff who typically work with seniors in the community have been redeployed to help residents of the Region’s eight long-term care homes stay in touch with family members and friends.

The additional staff have been helping residents use iPads and communications software including Skype and social media to connect to family members.

“We’re seeing people are happy at that moment in time. They’re feeling supported and a little less lonely,” Rudel said. “Certainly, if you can’t have your family come in to visit, there’s a risk around loneliness and I think this effort has really addressed that,” she said. “It’s been a proactive measure to address the risk that could come from the lack of personal interaction with your family.”

Family members, too, share a sense of relief seeing their loved ones are safe.

After chatting online with her parents Bill and Fay Hudgins, 93 and 94 years old, respectively, Lynda Desmarais said “it’s been really hard not being able to see them.”

“We are used to seeing them a couple of times a week,” she said. “The burden of not being available to them has been lessened significantly because of the help they are getting from the home.”

She said her brother Reece Hudgins typically shares a few jokes with their father during those visits to Gilmore Lodge in Fort Erie.

“He usually reads them out loud during visits and they have a good laugh.”

Bill and Fay Hudgins speak with their granddaughter Naomi O’Brien, with the help of redeployed adult day program staff at Gilmore Lodge in Fort Erie. – Niagara Region

Although Desmarais said her brother can’t visit their father personally, they are continuing to share jokes with the help of the redeployed adult day program staff.

Joanne Vipari called it “inspiring” to see the words of her mother Betty Jean Pauli, 86, shared online — reassuring friends and family that she’s safe and happy despite being under total lockdown, unable to have visitors or go out.

Pauli wrote that she and her fellow residents at Deer Park Suites Assisted Living “are doing our part to stay well, so hope everyone else takes care and does their part.

“Together we can lick this thing and maybe enjoy the nice weather coming. love to all my friends and relatives and keep well,” she wrote.

In an email, Vipari invited people who are “feeling inconvenienced by self-isolation and social distancing” to put themselves “in our elderly populations shoes.”

“If you don’t self-isolate for yourself please do it for our nurses, doctors, all front-line workers and please do it for those like my mom,” Vipari wrote.

A memo was issued to the Region’s early childhood educators last week, telling them their “skills can be utilized to support other areas of community service unless we have a directive to reopen childcare.” They, too, may find work at the seniors homes.

905-225-1629 | @abenner1