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Community Living’s support workers address COVID-19

April 9, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By Sam Odrowski
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The sacrifices that healthcare sector employees make to keep everyone safe has been celebrated by the public throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

But there are other unsung heroes, equally deserving of the public’s recognition, such as Community Living’s support staff who provide care to individuals with special needs all hours of the day.

“Staff have been incredibly generous with their time and we recognize that they’re under stress both at home and coming to work every day and their resilience really has been humbling,” noted Community Living program supervisor Vicki McQuarrie, who runs programs out of Alliston.

She said the organization’s employees have been extra understanding and compassionate with the individuals living in their residential homes during this time as they adapt to measures surrounding COVID-19.

“The staff have been very good at communicating with the people we support because they know them so well and what their needs are,” McQuarrie lauded.

“They have been really successful in explaining things, giving extra attention and being extra patient, giving the time needed to help everyone through this.”

The people who Community Living supports rely heavily on routine for balance and structure each day which has been greatly disrupted, as much of the organization’s activities and programming is community based.

“Not being able to access the community as we typically do has been a challenge,” McQuarrie explained, although staff have been creative in coming up with safe ways to still run activities and have fun with residents.

Technology has become increasingly important at Community Living as social distancing measures came into place.

“We have online groups everyday where it’s interactive,” said McQuarrie.

“They can interact with their peers across different group homes and see community members, so whether it’s online painting, or crafts together as a group, we’re using technology to bring people together as much as possible.”

To protect residents and staff, all non-essential visitation has been eliminated, so FaceTime and other video chat softwares are being utilized to keep everyone connected.

“It’s proving to be quite successful,” McQuarrie lauded. “The staff have bought in and… the people we support really seem to enjoy it.”

In addition to limited visitation, Community Living has taken other steps to keep residents safe by providing appropriate personal protective equipment and screening staff before every shift.

Despite COVID-19’s impact on the province’s workforce, Community Living has been able to maintain appropriate staffing levels as community programming has been eliminated.

Community programming staff are now being redirected to help with residential programs, while maintaining social distance.

McQuarrie told the Times that getting groceries and other supplies for their Community Living residence has been a challenge as well, but they’re finding solutions and working through it.

“Our staff have proven to be very resourceful when getting groceries and supplies,” she noted.

“We’re doing things like online ordering, group ordering – just trying to limit how often we’re going to grocery stores,” McQuarrie added. “We’ve also been very fortunate with donations from community members lately too.”

A handful of businesses from the community have donated food and baked goods to Community Living to show their support during this difficult time.

“The community support is much appreciated,” said McQuarrie.


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