LETTER: Efforts of HJM staff during pandemic appreciated

People have been dealing with COVID and its effects for more than two years and one only needs to read the paper or watch the news to see the toll it has taken across the country and in our own community. We have seen the impacts on our health and health care system, and we have faced numerous shutdowns, isolation from family and friends, job loss/reduction in hours worked, increased costs for essentials, school closures, and the list goes on.

These impacts have significantly altered the day to day lives of us all, including our children, but especially our elderly and those working in the health care system and first responders. Staff working at the HJ McFarland Memorial Home (HJM) have had to manage these personal challenges while also caring for the most vulnerable in our community, residents living in Long Term Care. They have had to adapt to an ever-changing environment of new procedures/protocols which added to an already overtaxed workload (pre-pandemic). Members of the HJM team have worked hard to maintain the same high quality of care residents have counted on over the years. Additionally, they have been there to calm fears and anxieties residents experienced during periods of isolation from family and friends.

During the early months of the pandemic and several times throughout, residents were confined to their rooms, taking meals on trays without social contact with other residents. At times, staff were the only connection to life outside the home. Staff provided reassurance to concerned families desperate for information regarding their loved ones and assisted residents to engage with family through window visits, telephone, and facetime. While residents are permitted visits with essential caregivers (since the fall of 2020) general visits are limited and restricted during times of lockdowns.

Through the uncertainty of the last 24 months, HJM staff have come up with creative ideas to counter some of the effects of isolation on the residents. They have held a Tim Horton and McDonald drive-through day; an outdoor drive-in theatre in the summer; a safari tour; parades; a casino; a carnival and even a celebration of the National Beer Day with samples from local breweries. Pictures and movie clips were posted on Facebook to allow these experiences to be shared with residents’ families. Even with staff shortages, long hours, sometimes double shifts, and the wearing of masks/other protective equipment during entire shifts, the staff continue to deliver quality care, while at the same time injecting a bit of joy into a very challenging time.

We believe that the HJM staff are true heroes. Despite an outbreak in early January which was limited to a small number of staff, there was no transmission to residents; nor has there been a solitary case of COVID-19 among the resident population since the beginning of the pandemic.

This is due to the team efforts of management and the staff in all departments: nursing, personal support, programs, housekeeping, dietary and environmental services. All have done their part. As a “County” owned and operated facility we think our community should be very proud and grateful for the efforts of the special people who work tirelessly to keep our residents well cared for and safe. Our Family Council is inspired and deeply thankful to all staff at the H.J. McFarland Memorial Home.

Secretary Joy VerVoort

On behalf of the HJM Family Council