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Dying is a lonely experience. Even if surrounded by friends and family, the act of passing from this life is done alone. But what if the lead up to death is also experienced without anyone at your side? For homeless people who are either disconnected from their family or have none at all, being palliative can add layers onto a solitary existence. Client Care Workers, like Rinah Oloo, who work at the Ottawa Mission Hospice, can be one of the only people those living with homeless have with them as they end their journey.  

Rinah is a Carefor employee who works at the Mission Hospice as part of the partnership between Carefor, Shepherds of Good Hope, The Ottawa Mission and Ottawa Inner City Health. The partnership brings health care professionals together to form teams that support homeless people out of programs across the city such as the Mission Hospice and Oaks, a 55-unit facility which provides a Managed Alcohol Program.

Rinah started at Carefor 16 years ago as a Personal Support Worker, providing care in the community, but transitioned to her current role as a Client Care Worker (CCW) working out of the Oaks and the Mission 13 years ago. In her work she provides much of the same care she gave in the community such as grooming, bathing and feeding, but with the added complexities of not only supporting a homeless community but also those who are palliative. “It’s a humbling responsibility. Many people have no families. We become like their families,” says Rinah.

The nature of a PSWs work goes beyond what people might see as typical health care – the diagnosis and the treatment – it assists someone in the day to day of managing their condition. But when one is combining that support with the possibility of homelessness, mental health issues, and addiction and then on top of it end of life care, the complexity of the care can grow exponentially.

Palliative care is an approach. While the term palliative suggests an imminent end, the palliative journey can take time and requires a long care approach, not just physical but also emotional. “We give them emotional support,” says Rinah. “Because they are people dealing with loneliness. People who are living on the street, people who have no family. We step in as their families and give them that emotional support.”

While there is no one story for individuals who are experiencing homelessness, addiction issues can be common and add challenges to care. However, as with all care provided to people at the Mission Hospice, a coordinated approach between the care team including doctors, nurses and CCWs, helps them understand and manage their addiction through their palliative care. “We have a harm reduction program and can prescribe alcohol because it is something they have had through their lives. We’re not going to take it away because of the negative impact,” says Rinah.

It’s not easy work, but for Rinah, knowing she’s helping people is its own reward. Knowing that someone who may have no one in their life end their journey with someone at their side to hold their hand and to listen to their story is why she does it. “People tell you about their lives. They tell you why they became homeless and how they lost connection with their families,” she says. “We empathize, we listen. By listening you give them that support that someone is out there. When they’re out on the street no one is listening but by listening you make them feel like someone is there for them.”

“When do you do something good to a person, it motivates you, it lifts your spirits…because you are doing something that is good for humanity…because you’re part of their life and part of their journey; you participate in that journey. We give them physical and mental care so they can leave their life in a dignified way.”

Learn more about Carefor’s partnership with Shepherds of Good Hope, The Ottawa Mission and Ottawa Inner City Health.

22 years. That’s how long Milly Hernandez has been working as a personal support worker. The Carefor employee immigrated to Canada from Guatemala in 1992. When she first moved to Canada, she got by through running a home daycare and working as a minibus driver.  Seeing her mom work for Carefor, Milly was interested in a similar opportunity, and she ended up in contact with former Personal Support Services Manager, Nancy Mylrea, who offered her a position as a homemaker. Soon after, Milly had an eye-opening experience with Carefor.

Not long before immigrating to Canada, Milly had lost her father to suicide. She says that his death came after a battle with alcoholism, and that addiction runs in her family. She recounts her intense emotions as she dealt with the grief, saying “I was mad with my dad. Like, how can you kill yourself?” Milly was still coping with these feelings when Carefor offered her a position working in our Inner City partnership with Shepherds of Good Hope and Ottawa Inner City Health.

Because of her time supporting people at Inner City, Milly got firsthand experience interacting with people who face addiction. Supported by training from Carefor that focused on helping people living with addictions, Milly says that over time this new knowledge helped her contextualize her father’s actions and cope with the grief of losing him. “I started thinking, you know what? I shouldn’t blame him,” she says, “now I know this is a disease.”

This wasn’t the only obstacle Milly struggled with, though. While working with Carefor she was also dealing with an abusive relationship. She said that she was beginning to fear for her children’s wellbeing, and knew she needed to get help. She went back to Nancy Mylrea asking for advice on the situation. Nancy told Milly to take some time off and helped her find resources. “She gave me some pamphlets,” recounts Milly, “and I ended up going to the shelter because I needed help.” After getting back on her feet, Milly was able to return to work, something that’s very important to her.

You can see the passion Milly has for her work as a PSW. She speaks about it with tremendous enthusiasm, but you get the sense that’s just who she is. Now, Milly has been working with Carefor as a PSW for 22 years. She currently works with seniors, stating that what’s important to her is spreading joy to people and ensuring that they keep their dignity as they age. This is what inspired her to lead Zumba classes for seniors, looking for fun ways to help seniors keep their bodies and minds healthy.

Milly is well known for spreading joy among her clients, who take notice of the colourful outfits she wears to work. Even her bright shoes are part of Milly’s goal to bring happiness to everyone she works with. Milly says she’s grateful to Carefor for helping her pursue this goal: “[Carefor] really gives people the ability to change their life if they want. And if they have a problem… [Carefor] helps them with the transition.”

If you are interested in getting a job with Carefor, look at our Careers page. To learn more about our Personal Support Services, visit our In-Home Care page.

Deciding on a career involves a hundred small decisions. Is the work fulfilling? Where can I do it? How much does it pay? What are the hours? On and on. But finding your calling is like any relationship: it just has to come naturally.

For Carefor Support Centre Supervisor, Michele Morgan, her career started as a part-time Administrative Assistant at the North Stor Seniors Support Centre in Finch when the building first opened in 1993.

She stayed there for over a decade, bringing her young children in to help with the activities for the seniors who visited the centre. However, in 2004, her curiosity about other career opportunities became too strong to ignore, so she got her insurance broker’s license and started working at an insurance agency, “because like everyone else you think there’s something better happening,” Michele recalls.

“You find out who you want to be and you be that person regardless.”

To say going from the social community of the North Stor Seniors Support Centre to an insurance agency was a change, is an understatement. “It was a lot of paper and a lot of busy time but not a lot of one on one with the client,” Michele says. “There was no feel good about it.”

She started to consider if she made the right move and when she was told that the person who replaced her at North Stor was leaving, she returned to Carefor. It was then that she understood how one’s life can’t be lived in compartments. To be one person in one place and another somewhere else is no way to live a life. “You find who you want to be, and you be that person regardless,” she says. “I thought that’s where I belong, and I’ll kick myself if I don’t apply.”

She also saw how working at North Stor wasn’t just part of her, it was a family. “My kids were born when I was there,” she recalls with a smile. “The most impactful time of my life was at the centre. That was my family. When I stepped outside of that, I saw wanting to be “more” wasn’t what made me feel good.”

Not long after returning to Carefor she moved from Administrative Assistant to Program Coordinator and then to her current position as Supervisor for both North Stor Support Centre in Finch and South Stormont Support Centre in Ingleside.

Looking over her career she sees how her work has impacted her and her family. “A lot of influence of who I am today comes a lot of seeing older adults every day,” says Michele.

As for her children, they’re now 29 and 24 and you can see the effect of years of volunteering and doing summer jobs and coops at the centre had on them with the elder being the Manager of Community Support Services for JW McIntosh in Williamsburg and the younger being a Personal Support Worker. “They started volunteering there at 5,” Michele recalls. “It was an amazing place to grow up. It takes a village…”

Looking back over her career she doesn’t regret the decisions she made along the way and recognizes how they helped her better know what’s important to her. “If you’re spending eight hours a day [at work] you have to be happy there,” she says. “I wouldn’t change the path of my journey. If I didn’t leave [Carefor] I would never had that revelation.”

To find out more about working at Carefor, visit our website.

On April 9th, Carefor PSW Murphy Akangoziri had his appointments for the day. Among them was Fortunato Furano, a 93 year-old client he supports every Tuesday with dressing and some basic health care. Murphy works in Ottawa West and has two clients who live close to one another. He decided for some reason to visit Fortunato first. It was a decision that saved a life.

When Murphy walked in the door, he expected a visit like any other, but instead he found Fortunato’s wife laying on the floor not breathing. Her daughter had fought through her panic to dial 911 moments before Murphy arrived. An ambulance was on its way but in moments like this, minutes can feel like hours. As soon as Murphy entered the home he asked, “Can I help?” to which Fortunato pleaded, “Help save my wife, please.”

Having been trained in CPR offered by the Red Cross, he knew he had the training for situations like this but one never knows how they’ll be able to use it until the moment arises. This training was made available to Murphy and his fellow PSWs via donations to Carefor.

Murphy began giving chest compressions while Fortunato’s daughter gave mouth to mouth resuscitation. Fifteen minutes after they made the call, the ambulance arrived. “I felt confident in my training,” Murphy recalls. The paramedics arrived and with the defibrillator shocked Lidia’s heart. Fortunato looked on. All he could do was watch as the love of his life lay on the floor. Her heartbeat finally returned.

After the paramedics took Lidia to the hospital, Murphy stayed with Fortunato for two hours comforting him. “I was really really bad,” recalls Fortunato the emotion of the day still in his voice. “I want to thank [Murphy] very much.” Fortunato’s daughter who informed Carefor about the incident said, “basically [Murphy] helped save my mother’s life,” something the paramedics later confirmed. “I think he should be recognized…He stayed with my dad a good hour and a half to two hours [after].”

On April 18th, Carefor’s manager of Personal Support Services, Jennifer Faucher, PSS supervisor, Natalie Smith and PSS Professional Practice Lead, Diane Roscoe met with Murphy to thank him in person offering him a small token of our gratitude for his exceptional work. He also received a Carefor Stars pin and letter from Fortunato’s family.  “It’s not every day that you save a life and we wanted to acknowledge your efforts and we wanted to thank you for being part of the team,” said Jennifer Faucher to Murphy.

On receiving the thanks, Murphy expressed his gratitude but also showed his humility. He’s a large man standing over six feet but has a gentleness about him that you can see would have been comforting to Fortunato during his time of need. “It was like God told him to come to our house,” says Lidia’s daughter, Gina. “He wasn’t supposed to go then, but something told him to.” “I don’t know why I chose to go to their house first,” Murphy recalls. “I told [Fortunato] God loves your wife.”

Upon leaving their home, Murphy continued with his work going to his next client visit. He hasn’t visited Fortunato since the incident but takes comfort knowing he helped his wife. “She has a permanent pacemaker now,” says Gina. “She is sore, but she is doing better.”

Carefor offers Personal Support as part of our home care services in Ottawa, Cornwall and area and Pembroke-Renfrew County. To learn more, visit our website.

The path we take for our career rarely follows a straight line. Along the journey we make decisions to help us find not only the type of work we want to do, but also the kind of life we want to have.

When Meghann Gallop graduated from university in 2008 as an occupational therapist, her first job was at Carefor. After three years of working in the community she left to explore other opportunities and found a job working for an insurance agency assessing worker claims. This was decidedly not the fulfilling job she was looking for. Meghann struggled with the opposing goals between her agency and her clients, as she was there to assess their claims and not to improve people’s health.

Another problem for Meghann was the effect that the work was having on her wellbeing. In this role, she felt seriously overworked. She describes long hours, working regularly after she put her children to bed to 11:00 PM to complete her reports. Along with this poor work-life balance, Meghann recalls, “The pay was terrible, benefits were terrible and there was no pension.” Eventually, she decided that her calling was somewhere else.

Meghann brought these concerns to Kaelan Bray, Carefor Allied Health Manager at the time. Hearing Meghann’s struggles, she recommended that Meghann send in her resume. By 2013, Meghann was back on the Carefor team, working full-time as an occupational therapist. This time around, Meghann was here to stay.

“I’m probably a Carefor lifer,” she laughs. “I don’t know why I would leave. I like the job; it gives me a good work-life balance,” says Meghann. A key aspect of the job for her are the connections she forges and the comfort that she can bring people. In some environments, like hospital inpatient care, Meghann says it can be harder to support clients. When they’re so divorced from their normal life, it’s difficult as an OT to assess their realities and offer them suggestions to manage or overcome them. “[In hospital, everyone] is in in the same bed, wearing the same hospital gown.”

But working with clients in their homes gives you the chance to talk to them in their own space. You can ask questions about their home, see how they manage their daily life, and offer solutions in real-time as you observe the barriers they face. You connect with people on a personal level. “Homecare is the heart of occupational therapy,” she says. “Being in people’s homes allows you to see them in their natural environment.”

Additionally, she finds satisfaction with her scope of practice. She sees five clients a day and they can be five different people with very different needs. “I never get bored. I see a lot of variety,” she says.

Now, with a job that she’s passionate about and a pension plan that supports her future, Meghann has found a place she feels she belongs. “I work alone in the community, but I have a team that I connect with. We message each other throughout the day and go for lunch together once a month.” Carefor has offered her the chance to make personal connections in work and maintain her life out of it. For Meghann, there’s no looking back.

If you’re interested in joining the Carefor team, go to the Careers page on the Carefor website to learn more.

Elizabeth has been working in the community as a Personal Support Worker (PSW) for 8 years with Carefor. Each day is new and different, filled with a variety of clients and situations making it an ideal job for her.

Being a PSW in the community positively impacts not only our clients but their families as well, no matter how much or how little family members are able to help out, PSWs’ are there. Because of PSWs’ Carefor clients are safer and stay longer at home, able to live fulfilling lives. “I’ve had client’s children come to me,” Elizabeth says “They’ll say, my mother, my father talks about how great everything has been, I’m so glad my mom and dad get to stay at home.”

By choosing a career as a Carefor PSW Elizabeth not only choose to help those in the community she chose the guidance and support from those she works with. “If I did not have the management, the supervisors, the coordinators behind me I would not have lasted in this,” says Elizabeth.

With a supportive staff behind you, as a PSW you have the opportunity to build your own schedule around your life. “If you have children you have to take to school in the morning… or you have an appointment in the middle of the day (you) don’t have to hand back clients,” Elizabeth says a process which in turn helps to eliminate burn in the long run.

There are so many enticing benefits to working as a PSW such as positive impacts, generous compensation, benefits and pension plans. Working as a PSW for Carefor you gain a support system that encourages you to grow in your role and for Elizabeth, that means “they are always looking out for your ongoing education and your knowledge as a PSW.”

Click here to see how Elizabeth makes an impact on the lives of her clients.

To learn more about working at Carefor, click here.

It seems that COVID-19 is all anyone is thinking about these days, and it makes sense. It’s a global threat that has been brought to the local level like nothing we’ve ever seen. Not only has it affected every aspect of our lives, it has affected our sense of safety.

Each of us brings our own reality to COVID-19, our own age, medical history, living circumstances. Many of the people that Carefor supports are among the most vulnerable to it. These are our elderly neighbours, who often live alone and have underlying health conditions. They often cannot leave their homes to receive required medical care, which is why they need visiting nurses like Jovie Velasco.

By treating people in their homes, Jovie and her fellow Carefor nurses are keeping our seniors out of the hospital. She will be the first to tell you that we provide more than just health care, especially in times like this. Our team of nurses offer social connection and comfort to people struggling with social isolation and feelings of uncertainty.

“We aim to give our patients the best care and some sort of reassurance that their essential health care needs are being met during this challenging time,” she says.

Carefor Nursing Manager Sean Sudbrink stresses that community health care delivery has never been more important than now: “Our staff are able to safely meet the care needs of our community members in the safety of their homes during a time of fear and isolation. In many cases our nurses’ caring approach is the only real contact many have with the outside world.”

That said, it’s thanks to experienced and educated nurses like Jovie who are able to adapt and deliver high-quality health care services. Knowing that advanced wound care is required to treat nearly 60% of Carefor’s nursing clientele, Jovie was inspired to continue her education in this area to better meet the needs of our community.

Jovie and her daughter. Thanks to Carefor’s generous donors, Jovie was able to get the support she needed to fund her yearlong NSWOCC course. “It took away my financial worries while I was raising my young daughter.”

After completing the competitive program, Jovie says she noticed a difference in the quality of care she was able to give to clients: “I can give more to my patients and also provide support to other nurses.”

“Sending nurses to improve their education has helped us improve quality care and elevate wound care, which means it helps us heal wounds faster,” she adds. “It’s amazing that donors have given us the opportunity to further our education and help us continue to deliver exceptional quality of care.”

Sean echoes this statement: “The best means we have to [deliver the highest quality of care to our clients] is through continued staff education opportunities on the most up to date and best practice guidelines.  This however comes with a significant cost, which we are able to offset with bursary funds through generous contributions.”

Thank you to our donors for continuing to support our community nurses. We are grateful for these donations as we know continuous learning and advancement in specialized areas of nursing helps us deliver exceptional care. Your continued contributions help us prepare for the next health challenge.

As Cornwall and the surrounding area continue to adapt to social distancing, many seniors do not feel safe leaving their homes and as a result become isolated.

The United Way/ Centraide of Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry along with members of the Regional Emergency Response Council were awarded funds through The New Horizons for Seniors Program to provide immediate essential services to seniors directly impacted by COVID-19.

With the newly attained funds, the S.D.& G. community took action. The Regional Emergency Response Council was established and co-led by the Social Development Council of SDG, Cornwall and Akwesasne and The United Way of SDG. A number of local agencies and non-profits including but not limited to Carefor, the Seaway Valley Community Health Centre, the City of Cornwall, the Optimist Club and 2-1-1, representing different groups of people and services within the community worked together to help bring food security to seniors within S. D. & G. The goal: prepare and deliver up to 1500 food hampers to people in need.

From May 14-15, over 500 food hampers were delivered by 70 staff and volunteers to Carefor clients, both in Cornwall and the surrounding counties. The Regional Emergency Response Council continued delivering food hampers in the days to follow.

Volunteers organizing Food Hampers for delivery.

Dianne Kuipers, the Manager of Community Support Services with Carefor led the charge of staff and volunteers stepping up to help ensure food security for many seniors who already access services through Carefor Eastern Counties. “It was all about serving our community and helping to counteract some of the food insecurities that have been prevalent during our pandemic.”

With the help of Edwin Duncan, owner operator of JED Express transport out of South Mountain and his son, Eric Duncan, MP of Stormont, Dundas and South Glengarry, the team loaded up a 53 ft. transport trailer with over 310 food hampers, and travelled from Cornwall to Lancaster, Alexandria, Finch, Ingleside, and Winchester. At each stop, volunteers were waiting to load their vehicles to deliver the food hampers directly to seniors and other eligible recipients within each township. “It was a rewarding day. This is a tough time for a lot of people including our seniors and it’s wonderful Carefor, the team and all the volunteers stepped up to make a difference,” says Eric.

Reflecting on the deliveries made within the counties, Dianne felt “It was a beautiful example of community. It was a beautiful example of neighbours helping neighbours, and that’s what these centres are about, and that’s what this initiative is about.” In a few days of planning the Regional Emergency Response Council’s team was able to procure food, package the food hampers, recruit volunteers, identify people in need of food and ultimately make the final deliveries.

On May 15, the team delivered the remaining 200 food hampers to Carefor clients within the Cornwall area.

With the hopes this initiative would carry-on, Dianne along with the team have since received a number referrals after the deliveries were made. “We expected that in the days to follow we’d be getting more referrals and more inquiries about the food boxes.”

“Nothing happens without a team. Carefor has an amazing team of people.”

Volunteers helping to make the initiative come to life included Carefor Supervisors, Team Leaders, staff and volunteers, the local MP, municipal leaders, and neighbours of the centres. Dianne shared “My heart is full. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for their generosity of time and in their engagement in this initiative. It means more to me and I’m sure more to many folks than we can ever express.”

If you are a senior and need help accessing food during this crisis, please call 2-1-1 to connect with available services including food hampers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Interested in learning more about the services offered by Carefor Eastern Counties? Click here to learn more.

Carefor’s newly appointed Personal Support Worker Team Leaders are taking on a significant role at many of the 34 retirement homes Carefor provides service to in Ottawa and Eastern Counties. With a reduction in the number of people flowing in and out these homes, there has been an ongoing need for more leadership support.

Director of PSS Robin Meyers, IPAC Manager Diane Roscoe, and PSS Manager Jennifer Faucher collaborated with a team of nursing students in consultation with PSWs to bring this new role to life. PSW Team Leaders will complete a 6-hour online mentorship and leadership courses at Western University and 10-hour palliative care online training.

With the ongoing shortage of PSWs in Ontario, opportunities in career advancement are top of mind. For many PSWs at Carefor, our organization marks the beginning of their career path. Robin says this new role is an example of how Personal Support Workers can continue to grow and advance their career at Carefor. “It’s also an opportunity to recognize the contributions of Carefor PSWs,” she adds.

PSW Team Leaders are on-site support for their colleagues, providing training and maintaining a positive work culture, which values the retention of our staff. While this role is new, these role models have been informally supporting their respective teams for years now.

Earlier this month, Awa Lamiraux was of the first few long-time PSWs to be launched into this role. Over a decade ago, Awa joined Carefor and now, she can’t imagine doing anything else: “I’ve been to every corner of Ottawa and have taken care of some high-profile individuals to people living with little means,” she says. “The work we do every day is very important. We bring care to all who need it in the community.”

Awa can’t stress enough the importance of this formalized position to support staff: “We’re seeing lots of new faces at Carefor who need more support in their new role. My role is to continue supporting them the best I can and make sure they feel comfortable.”

The PSS Team is confident the new formalized training will go a long way in recognizing and retaining staff. “PSWs are the unsung heroes of the health care system despite playing a vital role in people’s health and wellbeing,” Robin says.

In the last year, Carefor Personal Support Workers (PSWs) have made more than 700,000 home visits, and for good reason. They help people who need assistance due to illness, aging or increasing dependencies.

Their services include bathing assistance, exercise, companionship, feeding assistance, grooming, light housekeeping, and more. This level of personal care helps to reduce caregiver burnout and keep clients safe and healthy in their homes.

Longtime Carefor PSW Heather Munn says home care PSWs are a lifeline for not only clients, but also their families who need that helping hand: “PSWs take some of the load off from family members who have a lot on their plate.”

However, during these uncertain times, their role has become more important than ever to keep people out of hospital and stay socially connected. They have become a calming presence, and for some, one of the few faces they will see during a time of social isolation.

While clients aren’t able to see the warm smiles behind their masks, they are still receiving compassionate care during a great time of need.

“Continuing to see our clients helps to keep a sense of regularity during this challenging time,” Heather explains. “Despite everything that has changed, they can rest assured that they are still getting their showers, being fed, changing their clothes, and maintaining some kind of social interaction.”

Heather says being able to have genuine conversations with her clients when some of them don’t have many opportunities to connect with the outside world has improved their mental health: “We’re all running out of TV shows to watch. I come in as a different face, we can have a conversations and they can ask me questions that concern them … They aren’t seeing their family or friends, but at least they see me, and that keeps them calm.”

While this is an undeniably difficult time for our clients, it is equally as challenging for some of our staff.

Heather lives with her family, and her mother and grandfather are at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19. This constant worry is not easy, but she is committed to serving her clients when they need it the most.

“Some clients are so kind that they’re offering lodging for me because they’ve heard on the news that some health care professionals are looking for a place to live during these uncertain times.”

Support during this COVID-19 pandemic will help protect our Carefor Heroes, their clients, and their own family. Give to our local frontline workers at carefor.ca/donate.

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