Lynne Smith and her dog Chester pose in this undated handout photo. Smith has applied for a job at a long-term care facility in Abbotsford, B.C., and says she’ll even clean toilets so she can see her husband. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Lynne Smith *MANDATORY CREDIT*

Lynne Smith and her dog Chester pose in this undated handout photo. Smith has applied for a job at a long-term care facility in Abbotsford, B.C., and says she’ll even clean toilets so she can see her husband. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Lynne Smith *MANDATORY CREDIT*

Woman says she’d clean toilets to work at B.C. care home and see husband

Menno Place is recruiting residents’ families because so many employees have been diagnosed with COVID-19

Lynne Smith’s daily visits to a long-term care home ended abruptly after a COVID-19 outbreak three weeks ago but she jumped at the chance to work at the facility that is hiring family members so she can see her husband.

“I felt so powerless and unhelpful. Laundry and being in dietary and being a housekeeper are not really my forte but I mean, I’ll do anything.” Smith said. “I’ll wash dishes, I’ll clean toilets.”

Smith’s husband, Derrick Smith, 72, has been living at Menno Place in Abbotsford, B.C., since February 2018 after moving there from another facility following a stroke and brain surgery.

Menno Place is recruiting residents’ families because so many employees have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in an outbreak that started on Nov. 17 after one resident became ill following treatment in hospital.

Smith said she’d visited her husband daily with their dog, Chester, even as they were forced to see each other through a window when visits were limited.

“I’ll do it for free. Just get me in there so I could help somebody,” said Smith, who had already been doing some of her husband’s laundry and cleaned his hearing aids and teeth.

Karen Biggs, CEO of Menno Place, said 31 residents and 21 staff had become ill on a unit that is home to 45 people but the care home began putting together a plan to hire families after the first few infections to avoid a staffing crisis that has hit other facilities.

“We’re getting very, very tight because staff are going off sick or they’re going off with pending swabs,” she said of those awaiting the results of COVID-19 tests.

The home’s director of human resources, the manager of housekeeping and laundry and the executive director of finance have come in on days off to work for staff who were sick or doing extra duties for patients confined to their rooms, Biggs said.

Menno Place had been trying to hire staff for months, she said.

“Because of the single-site order, it’s very, very hard to recruit people right now,” Biggs said of a policy by the provincial health officer for staff in care homes to work in only one facility to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading from place to place, as was the case earlier in the pandemic.

Biggs said 54 applicants, including residents’ grandchildren, had responded to a request on the facility’s website to work in laundry service, delivering food trays to rooms and doing housekeeping duties because of enhanced cleaning requirements during the outbreak.

Two people have so far been hired to do housekeeping, including a former care aide who once worked at Menno Place and whose mother is a resident at the facility, Biggs said, adding families in Alberta whose loved ones also live there have inquired about whether they’d need to quarantine for two weeks before starting work.

Residents’ families would get the same safety training offered to other employees around infection control and the use of personal protective equipment, she said.

The added bonus is those who work at the facility would get to see their loved one while cleaning their room, for example, but not having direct contact with them.

“I’d clean spotless If my mother was on the unit,” Biggs said.

READ MORE: 32 family members respond to Abbotsford care home’s plea for staffing help during COVID-19 outbreak

Isobel Mackenzie, the advocate for seniors in British Columbia, said Menno Place seems to be the first long-term care facility in Canada to hire families.

The important role of families who help with everything from feeding to helping care for their loved ones has been acknowledged during the pandemic, she said, adding getting to see people while working at a care home may be the only hope for those who have been forced to stay away.

“I think Menno Place is showing a flexibility and ingenuity around how to get some extra hands in there quickly.”

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Recipients of last year’s Winter Games Legacy Grant funds. Bulletin file.
City of Kimberley accepting applications for Winter Games Legacy grants

Grants are available for amateur sports organizations

Amanda Parsons, a registered nurse on staff at the Northwood Care facility, administers a dose of the Moderna vaccine to Ann Hicks, 77, in Halifax on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan-Pool
61 new COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Interior Health

Twenty-nine people are in hospital, seven of whom are in intensive care

Kimberley Mayor Don McCormick. Bulletin file
No need for travel bans: Kimberley Mayor

While there has been plenty of chatter lately about the possibility of… Continue reading

Author Rosa Jordan
Join Kimberley Library for an author Zoom session

Join the Kimberley Public Library for an evening as the award-winning novelist… Continue reading

Cranbrook Search and Rescue safely and effectively rescued an injured snowmobiler on January 16. Pictured are six members took part in a Avalanche Skills Training Level 1 course, which also took place on the 16th. Members are required to have at minimum AST1 for winter responses. (Facebook/Cranbrook SAR file)
Cranbrook SAR rescues injured snowmobiler from Lumberton area

A helicopter crew assisted in safely and quickly located the injured person

A woman writes a message on a memorial mural wall by street artist James “Smokey Devil” Hardy during a memorial to remember victims of illicit drug overdose deaths on International Overdose Awareness Day, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. paramedics respond to record-breaking number of overdose calls in 2020

On the front lines, COVID-19 has not only led to more calls, but increased the complexity

Throughout December, RCMP conducted CounterAttack road checks as police worked to keep roads free of impaired drivers. (BLACK PRESS file photo)
From the “You can’t make this stuff up” file – stories from the BC CounterAttack campaign

Amusing, yes, but a reminder impaired driving affects ability to drive and to make good decisions

(Thesendboys/Instagram)
Video of man doing backflip off Vancouver bridge draws police condemnation

Group says in Instagram story that they ‘don’t do it for the clout’

Inspection of bridge crossing on a B.C. forest service road. (B.C. Forest Practices Board)
B.C. falling behind in maintenance of forest service roads

Auditor finds nearly half of bridges overdue for repair

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

(Black Press Media files)
Woman steals bottles of wine after brandishing stun baton in New Westminster

Police say the female suspect was wearing a beige trench coat with fur lining

Stand up paddleboarder Christie Jamieson is humbled to her knees as a pod of transient orcas put on a dramatic show on Jan. 19 in the Ucluelet Harbour. (Nora O’Malley photo)
UPDATED WITH VIDEO: Vancouver Island paddle boarder surrounded by pod of orcas

“My whole body is still shaking. I don’t even know what to do with this energy.”

Toronto’s Mass Vaccination Clinic is shown on Sunday January 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Canadian malls, conference centres, hotels offer up space for COVID vaccination centres

Commercial real estate association REALPAC said that a similar initiative was seeing success in the U.K.

Most Read