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“This is not a hospital. It’s a home.”

How Houses of Providence staff stop at nothing to pamper residents, despite pandemic restrictions.

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Providence activation assistant, Nina Borgh with resident Joe Singh

Providence activation assistant, Nina Borgh with resident Joe Singh

A few days before Christmas, a small group of residents gathered for a holiday lunch at the Cardinal Ambrozic Houses of Providence long-term care home. In previous years, it would have brought together as many as 100 residents. Because of COVID, the event was capped at 10.

The bill of fare was a croissant filled with the resident’s choice of meats, along with cheese, sweet onion, pickles and potato salad. Dessert was Tiramisu. “The food was good,” says resident Joe Singh. “But the food wasn’t the point. It was the chance to socialize. And it was nice to know that people are taking the trouble for us.”

That, says Nina Borgh, is exactly the point. Nina is in charge of special projects at Providence, and the lunches were a way of engaging residents, despite COVID restrictions.

“Even though the residents had to be in small groups, the lunches gave them something to look forward to and made them feel valued. We want them to know that they’re worth all the preparation, with all the bells and whistles, because they deserve to be pampered. So much of the freedom and pleasure they used to have from our long-term care programming was taken away by COVID. Little by little, we’re trying to give it back.”

Debasish Pal is the activation and programs manager at Providence. He has looked for ways to make life for his residents normal and fun, when the COVID years were anything but. He and his colleagues have organized countless Zoom get-togethers among residents and their families. There is also hallway bingo, with residents playing in their rooms and the bingo callers patrolling the halls. Crossword puzzles on iPads. Virtual dance lessons. Dog visits. Mobile music teams have roamed the premises. If entertainment could happen, it happened. They even found a way to bring back the Tim Horton’s experience. Residents who loved going out for a Tim’s coffee were unable to leave their units during COVID. And so staff created a “Tim’s drive through” inside the unit, allowing residents to get their coffee and donuts in safety.

“This is not a hospital,” Pal says. “It’s a home. And we want to make it as homey as possible. So we’ll keep on doing everything we can to meet the physical, emotional, intellectual, social and spiritual needs of our residents, working around COVID restrictions as best we can. It’s getting easier now.”

Lotte Lindau wants Pal and Nina and their colleagues to know that they’re doing great. Lotte arrived at Providence in the middle of the pandemic. She had to spend some time in isolation when she caught COVID. Through it all, she says, staff have looked for ways to keep her safe, happy and entertained. She says she could not have asked for more.

“I am so happy to be here. It is just so pleasant. The truth is, I couldn’t look after myself anymore. I feel like I’ve been rescued. I have a great place to live, and I’m very thankful.”

For Pal, hearing that from Lotte is nice, but he can’t stop thinking: What if we could get past COVID?

“I think about how it was, when we could do everything we wanted for the residents,” he says. “We’d see those wonderful smiles after the big events, and we’d know we’d done a really good thing. I wish it could be like that again.”

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