When the pandemic struck one year ago, Rowena could never have guessed how her life would be turned upside down.
As a personal care attendant at Kensington Gardens long-term care home, Rowena wanted to keep everyone safe. Travelling back and forth to work, she worried about the safety of her family. With five people living in one house, what if she got them sick?
When Rowena saw COVID-19 case numbers rise, she made the difficult decision to spend weeks living apart from her family. She stayed at a local hotel that offered free rooms to health care workers. Despite the heavy physical and emotional toll, Rowena knew she had to be there for the residents that depend on her care. “It is not just a job for me. It comes from my heart,” explains Rowena.
Caregivers like Rowena are not alone.
In the past year, they’ve taken extraordinary steps to support residents and patients in the most difficult of circumstances. Clinical staff have been working weekends and afterhours to provide access to surgery and urgent eye care. Hospice staff continue to provide end-of-life care 24/7/365. Caregivers at the Gardens have gone the extra mile to find creative ways to help families share life events, like birthdays and weddings, in the safest possible way.
Many of these stories were featured in a front-page article from the Toronto Star last month, where our staff shared experiences of heartbreak and joy caring for our residents and their families - including meaningful ways for them to say their last goodbyes. One of our personal care aides, Tsehay Kidane, captured our team’s commitment well: “There is no more happiness for me than bringing a smile to their face.”
Thankfully, our community has been there throughout this pandemic. Donors, families, volunteers, and neighbours have stepped in to help – from giving meals for staff to donating to meet urgent needs.
While there have been improvements, the pandemic is not over. We’ve made it this far, and we will make it through the rest the same way: together.